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  1. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/10714/on-the-line-tice-breaks-down-starting-five FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice has done an admirable job piecing the line together after losing five linemen to season-ending injuries: Sam Baker (knee), Joe Hawley (ACL), Peter Konz (ACL), Lamar Holmes (foot), and Mike Johnson (Lisfranc). Tice has used five different starting line combinations this season with three different starting centers and three different starting right tackles -- four, if you count rookie first-round draft pick Jake Matthews working at right tackle upon his arrival. But Tice has worked with the same group the last six games, and the group has made tremendous strides. Here is how Tice breaks down the current five starters: Left tackle Jake Matthews: "He's on a roll right now. He's playing good football. He has one or two bad sets a game. He's much better in the run game than he was earlier in the season. Playing with a lot of confidence. He's playing like who we thought he was when we drafted him." Left guard Justin Blalock: "Is a very good pass protector. J.B. has gotten better in our run game and has been practicing extremely well the last three weeks." Center James Stone: "Very smart. Very big for a center. Tremendous lateral quickness. Gets us lined up every play, and is very mature for a rookie." Right guard Jon Asamoah: "He's the most consistent player that we've had all year and the only player that's played in every game. Very consistent." Right tackle Ryan Schraeder: "Ryan is very athletic, very smart. He plays with great awareness. And his competitive level, his energy, and his aggression are maybe the highest in the group." Nice to see what Tice thinks. Am I the only one who thinks this may be a good group to go with our line for next year? The James-Stone-is-our-Center guy may have been right the whole time...
  2. Dirk Koetter: Defenses keep Julio Jones from fade routes in red zone By Vaughn McClure | November 18, 2014 8:05:47 PM PST FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- While Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter steered clear of why wide receiver screens haven't been successful, he did offer an explanation for not throwing more fade routes to Julio Jones in the red zone. "Well, most teams that play us, when they are playing man coverage, are usually doubling [Julio]," Koetter said. "So they usually have a safety doubling over the top. Percentage-wise, it wouldn't be in your best interest to throw it. Jones "We have a lot of plays where (the fade) may be an option to go to Julio, if we get the right coverage. We just haven't had it up at the right time, or they haven't been in the right coverage at the right time." Jones has three touchdowns this season, two coming in the red zone. The first was a 14-yard reception from Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati game. Jones was in the slot one-on-one against safety Reggie Nelson, which was an obvious mismatch. The other was an 8-yard pass from Ryan in Week 3 against Tampa Bay during which Jones got behind single coverage from cornerback Johnthan Banks as safety Dashon Goldson hesitated while pondering whether to double Devin Hester. Koetter was asked about the possibility of using Roddy White more in those fade routes, since Jones is being taken away. "Well, Roddy actually has got a couple of touchdown passes on back-shoulder fades over on the other side," Koetter said. "Those are examples of plays where when we don't have the right box count or we're in a fade situation, Matt's looking for the best matchup. There were two of them this year. They don't seem like they're fades because they're not leading [White] right to the back corner of the end zone." White has a team-leading five touchdown receptions, with four of them in the red zone. Koetter said tight end Levine Toilolo could become more of a red-zone threat moving forward. Toilolo has one touchdown catch: a 1-yard reception in a season-opening win over New Orleans.
  3. Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure revises his season prediction at the midway point of the season: Preseason prediction: 9-7 Revised prediction: 6-10 Why the Falcons will finish worse: Sure, the 2-6 Falcons could get hot if the offense plays up to its capabilities, but that will be a difficult task unless QB Matt Ryan gets adequate protection and his receivers stop dropping passes. Remember, Ryan and the Falcons lost five offensive linemen to season-ending injured reserve since the preseason. Plus Ryan doesn't have a tight end threat like Tony Gonzalez as a safety net this season, and it shows. Even if the offense is able to overcome the challenges mentioned above, the Falcons' porous defense won't be able to hold up its end of the bargain. A non-existent pass rush currently ranked dead last in the league with just seven sacks is unlikely to improve enough to keep opposing quarterbacks from making big third-down plays. The Falcons don't have depth at linebacker, and the defensive backfield includes three players just in their second NFL seasons who have to defend longer because of the lack of pressure up front. I can see the Falcons having a flashback to Week 3 against Tampa Bay and somehow putting it all together on both sides of the ball for an unexpected triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Georgia Dome (Dec. 14), which would leave fans angry and asking why the team couldn't play in the same fashion the entire season. It's possible for the Falcons to sneak a road win or two in, starting with Sunday's rematch at Tampa Bay. But four more victories in the second half of the NFL schedule won't save the Falcons' season. Vaughn McClure ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter Full Story: http://espn.go.com/b...=espnapi_public
  4. Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said Thursday he's addressed a situation with Ra'Shede Hageman concerning marijuana-related messages apparently posted on the rookie defensive lineman's Instagram account. The private message from Hageman's account showed a message directed toward a young woman saying, "u smoke weed?" then following with, "my teammate were looking for some.'' Hageman told ESPN.com his account was hacked without going into much detail about the matter. Smith would not address the specifics, either. "I've have a conversation with Ra'Shede and again, like all my conversations, I'd like to keep that between Ra'Shede and myself,'' Smith said. Hageman was the team's second-round draft pick out of Minnesota. He has been on the practice field all week, and there are no indications he'll be disciplined for the social media mishap. Vaughn McClure ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter Full Story: http://espn.go.com/n...=espnapi_public
  5. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although his team is 2-6 and a long shot to make the playoffs, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith is not worried about his job security as this juncture. Smith addressed the media Monday, a day after the Falcons blew a 21-point lead and lost to the Detroit Lions 22-21 in London. Smith was asked Monday if he has any concerns about job security, with his team on a five-game losing streak. "No," Smith said. "None whatsoever. We're going to do what we've done for the last six-plus years and prepare each and every week like we know how to do it. And I'm going to continue to do that until Mr. Blank tells me otherwise.'' Team owner Arthur Blank recently told ESPN.com he had confidence in both Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff to guide a turnaround and said he would wait to see how the season plays out before evaluating changes. But Blank was noticeably frustrated after Sunday's loss in London, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "There's no way you lose that game -- just no way. There's nothing else I can say." Smith was asked if he felt a little more pressure based on Blank's public comments about the loss. "I talk to Mr. Blank after every game and I think that those conversations do stay private,'' Smith said. "And I do agree with him. When you're up 21-0 at halftime, you should not lose that football game.'' Two seasons ago, Smith guided the Falcons to a 13-3 record and a NFC title game appearance. But in the past 24 games, the Falcons are 6-18. "I haven't done a good enough job, plain and simple,'' Smith said. "Because ultimately, it's my responsibility. So I haven't done the job that I need to do. I've let down the players, the coaches, and the fans thus far. But I think what we plan on doing, we plan on getting hot and making a really good second half of this season.'' By Vaughn McClure http://espn.go.com/n...e-losing-streak</p></p>
  6. A couple games ago, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith talked about how winning the NFC South would be the "cleanest" way for his team to make the playoffs despite a slow start. Well, now the Falcons sit at 2-5 and are in the midst of a four-game losing streak as they prepare for Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Lions (5-2) in London. Optimism has all but faded, at least in the eyes of irate fans. And the division race isn't something Smith really wants to discuss anymore. "This division is going to be a competitive division every single time. ...I'm not concerned about the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Smith said after Sunday's 29-7 loss at Baltimore. "We've got to focus on the Atlanta Falcons. And together, we will pull out of this." The Falcons were 2-5 to start the 2013 season, then lost their next four and imploded to a 4-12 finish. According to ESPN Stats a& Information, only four teams that have started the season 2-5 have gone on to make the playoffs since the playoffs expanded in 1990: the 2011 Broncos (8-8), the 2002 Jets (9-7), the 1995 Lions (10-6), and the 1990 New Orleans Saints (8-8). That Broncos team was quarterbacked by Tim Tebow, so maybe the Falcons truly do have hope. Not to mention the sad state on the NFC South means the Falcons have an outside chance to win the division title. There is no team currently above .500 in the division, with the Panthers leading the way at 3-3-1. The Falcons have the best record in NFC South play at 2-0 with wins against the Saints and Buccaneers, but both of those games were at home. They have three consecutive division road games upcoming -- at Tampa Bay (Nov. 9), at Carolina (Nov. 16) and at New Orleans (Dec. 21) -- and they are 0-4 on the road this season. Just how bad has the NFC South been this season? The Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints are a combined 8-17-1, including 2-12-1 on the road. The last time a division was as bad record-wise as the NFC South was on the road through 7 weeks was the 2010 NFC West, which was 2-12-0, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Based on combined opponents' records, the Falcons have the toughest remaining schedule (31-26-1) while the Panthers have the easiest (22-35). Only one team left on Carolina's schedule currently sits above .500, and that's the Philadelphia Eagles (5-1). Falcons receiver Julio Jones was bold enough to say his team is good enough to finish 11-5. Such doesn't seem realistic at this point, but you wonder if an 8-8 Falcons team might actually have a shot. Then anything could happen once you make the postseason. Just ask the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks from a few years back. But where will the Falcons find wins the rest of the way? They have four road games remaining outside of Sunday's trip to London. They face the NFC-West leading Cardinals (5-1) at home. And the Falcons travel to Green Bay (5-2) on Dec. 8, the exact same date they got buried in the snow at Lambeau Field last season without Aaron Rodgers in the Packers' lineup. Taking care of business at home against the Browns, Cardinals, Steelers, and Panthers would give the Falcons four more wins, but 6-10 isn't going to get it done. They likely have to go at least 6-3 the rest of the way and beat Carolina at least once over the next nine to have a legitimate shot, all while watching to see how the rest of the division unfolds. "It's no different when we've been successful, too," quarterback Matt Ryan said of keeping an eye on the division standings. "You always kind of know where things shake out and where things stand. It is what it is. "We're in the position that we're in. We know where everybody else is at. But I think (Coach) Smitty is right: At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what everybody else does. Ultimately, we've got to worry about and we've got to concern ourselves with what we've got to do to get better." by Vaughn McClure ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter http://espn.go.com/b...=espnapi_public
  7. As per Vaughn McClure's twitter: "Julio Jones to me, "You know we can go 11-5, right?" https://twitter.com/...946358928343040 Thoughts?
  8. Interesting we are just not discovering this. Many of my co-workers, up here in the great white north, are ND fans. They look at my like I have 3 eye balls when I tell them we have moved Shembo inside. To a man, they all seem him as more of a pass rush specialist than anything else. LINK If anyone has time to paste the text; I would appreciate it. Gotta run for now.
  9. vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 1h1 hour ago No boot for Drew Davis anymore.
  10. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/8525/falcons-need-to-turn-over-new-leaf-on-road FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Wide receiver Roddy White put it best when discussing the Atlanta Falcons' upcoming schedule, which features six of the next seven games on the road, one of which is a "home game" in London. "We've got to be Road Warriors," White said. "We've got to go out there on the road and win games. That's what it's about in this league. We're going to be away from home for a minute. ... We've got to go out there and win games on the road. We've got to go over .500, so this would be a good week to start." The Falcons take a 24-25 record under coach Mike Smith into Sunday's outdoor road clash with the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. They have lost three straight on the road dating back to last season and are 1-8 over their last nine road contests. The last time they've won on the road at a true outdoor stadium was Nov. 25, 2012, at Tampa Bay (24-23). "It's one of those things, it is what it is," quarterback Matt Ryan said of the road woes. "Going on the road in this league is tough, especially when you're playing against good football teams. I think the biggest thing for us has got to be that when we're on that road, it's 53 guys together, and that's all we've got. And we've got to be locked in and understand our plan really, really well. And I think if we take that heightened focus up there, we'll execute better than we did two weeks ago (at Cincinnati)." The common denominator for the Falcons over the last nine road games has been turnovers. They committed a total of 23, with 17 interceptions thrown by Ryan and six fumbles lost. The Falcons enter Sunday's game against the Vikings with a minus-1 turnover ratio with eight giveaways and seven takeaways. "We've been terrible the last two weeks," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said of the turnovers. "We've definitely got to get that trend stopped. We've got to hang on to the football, whether it be interceptions or fumbles. That's always our top priority. We've been doing plenty of things well, but that's not one of them." If they can get off to fast starts and avoid turnovers, maybe the Falcons will be the type of "Road Warriors" White wants them to be.
  11. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/8407/falcons-hope-to-sustain-defensive-intensity Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan sent a subtle but stern message to this defense last week when he said no defender was playing at a high level. "That was true," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "The Saints game, we didn’t play very well on defense. We had a complete system failure in Cincinnati. ... But Tampa Bay may have been the best game that we’ve played as a team since I’ve been a Falcon." The defense responded with four turnovers, three sacks, six tackles for losses and seven quarterback hits in a 56-14 win against Tampa Bay. We all know what the offense is capable of when Matt Ryan gets proper protection and has a healthy set of receivers. Devin Hester obviously makes the Falcons elite on special teams by his lonesome. The defense doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it needs to be more consistent moving forward. The last game was a good start -- literally and figuratively. A big part of the reason why the Falcons were able to apply much-needed pressure against the Buccaneers was because they set the tone early by stopping the run. On Tampa Bay’s very first offensive play, Nolan loaded up the box with William Moore flying down from his strong safety spot. At the snap, linebacker Joplo Bartu shot the gap and caused Bucs running back Bobby Rainey to alter his path. Defensive end Tyson Jackson absorbed a double team while nose tackle Paul Soliai won his one-on-one matchup and forced Rainey to make another sudden cut. The result was linebacker Paul Worrilow getting a free run up the middle to smash Rainey for just a 1-yard gain. From there, everything just all seemed to click for a defense that was a sieve through the first two games. So can the Falcons sustain their defensive intensity? "It’s about energy, man, and we fed off the offense: The offense was moving the ball, and we were creating turnovers," cornerback Desmond Trufant said. "If we do that every week, we can blow teams out every week." Nolan was rather vanilla with his defensive looks through the first two games. He was able to use different line combinations and overload the line of scrimmage in the last game, knowing the Buccaneers would have to pass the ball plenty after falling so far behind. Utilizing Peters and Malliciah Goodman more often as pass-rushers was a part of the revamped effort. It would make sense for Nolan to continue to bring the pressure Sunday in Minnesota against rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, especially with running back Adrian Peterson out of the Vikings' lineup. No matter how Nolan approaches the game, his players have to proceed with the same defensive intensity. "The sky’s the limit with this defense," said safety Kemal Ishmael, who had a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Buccaneers. "We have so much talent on this defense. ... It’s crazy how much talent we have. We just have to go out there and make the plays."
  12. ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneersat the Georgia Dome: What it means: The Falcons, whose NFC South record improved to 2-0, are extremely dangerous when they are clicking on all cylinders. Quarterback Matt Ryan set the tone early by marching his team on a a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive, capped by his 3-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas, in the first three minutes of the game. The Falcons scored 21 first-quarter points, and it was pretty much over after that. If the Falcons can jump ahead early like they did Thursday night, not many teams will be able to keep up with them. And if the defense plays inspired football like it did, the Falcons could be unstoppable. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. It's just one game -- although a very dominating one -- but the Falcons have to find their rhythm on the road at Minnesota the next time out. Stock watch: Ryan's stock plummeted last week as he posted just a 48.6 passer rating in a 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Well, that's a distant memory now after Ryan posted a career-high and franchise record 155.9 passer rating Thursday, completing 21 of 24 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His 87.5 completion percentage was a franchise single-game record (minimum 20 attempts). Ryan again made some plays with his feet, and his top receiver, Julio Jones, caught nine passes for 161 yards and two scores. The biggest difference for Ryan from last week was the return of rookie left tackle Jake Matthews to the lineup off an ankle injury. If Ryan gets the proper protection, he'll put up elite-quarterback numbers every time out. Walking wounded: The Falcons left the game rather banged up at receiver. Douglas injured a foot in the first half but didn't return, although he walked around the bench area in the second half. Devin Hester left the field before halftime with cramps but returned in the second half. He then limped off the field in the second half and went straight to the locker room. The Falcons already were without veteran Roddy White, who expected to play in the game but was inactive due to a hamstring injury. The Falcons have 10 days to rest up for their next game against the Vikings, so maybe those injured players will be healed up by then. If not, a guy such as rookie Bernard Reedy might have to be activated from the practice squad. Game ball: As Chicago Bears radio play-by-play man Jeff Joniak would say, Hester was "ridiculous" as he set an NFL record with his 20th career touchdown return -- a 62-yard punt return -- to surpass mentor Deion Sanders. Hester high-stepped to the end zone in Deion Sanders-like fashion, and he also scored his first-career rushing touchdown on a 20-yard reverse. http://espn.go.com/b...lanta-falcons-9
  13. vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 2m Mike Nolan said no one on Falcons defense is playing at a high level at this point.
  14. I know all of us are not pleased with what we did in Cincy so expect a complete turnaround on Thursday Night. Just don't buy into it because we are facing the Buccs......on another note Trufant is becoming my fav player on this team. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/8224/falcons-had-better-rush-to-it
  15. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie left tackle Jake Matthews, who suffered an ankle sprain in the season opener against New Orleans, said he expects to play against Tampa Bay on Thursday night. In the same breath, Matthews cautioned that the decision is not up to him. "We'll see what coach says," Matthews said. The Falcons had a walkthrough Monday. Had it been a full practice, Matthews would have been a limited participant along with Julio Jones (ankle) and linebacker Prince Shembo (knee), while Roddy White (hamstring) would have been held out. White was expected to have his practice schedule limited coming off a left knee injury, so the hamstring is a new addition to the equation. Falcons coach Mike Smith said he anticipated the limited players -- Matthews, Jones, and Shembo -- to be full participants during Tuesday's practice. "I hope that I can," Matthews said about going through a full practice. "We'll see what the coaches allow me to do. But I'm going to go out there and do some stuff, so we'll see how it goes." Matthews returned to the field last Friday for some light drill work. "I'm feeling better," he said. "They're doing a really good job with treatments and all that stuff to get me back as soon as possible. It's feeling better every day. I'm excited to see how this week goes for the game. I know they're going to do a good job and get me taped up and ready for the game." It would make sense for the Falcons to be extra cautious with Matthews. Not playing him Thursday would give him extra time to get fully healthy for the team's Sept. 28 trip to Minnesota. Whenever Matthews returns, it wouldn't be a surprise to see current left tackle Gabe Carimishifted back over to right tackle as the starter, considering how Lamar Holmes struggled in Sunday's 24-10 loss to Cincinnati. Carimi graded out well. "Wherever I'm needed, I think I'm pretty versatile," Carimi said. Carimi also has some familiarity with the next opponent. He played for the Buccaneers last season and was drafted by Chicago when first-year Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith was coaching the Bears. http://espn.go.com/b...co/1H7w3rpvlH"}
  16. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Last season, when the Atlanta Falcons traveled to San Francisco, there were obvious concerns about how the offensive line would fare against pass-rusher Aldon Smith and the vaunted 49ers' defensive front. Well, the Falcons actually held up fine with Lamar Holmes at left tackle and Ryan Schraeder at right. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter made sure to have guys such as running backs Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers, fullback Patrick DiMarco, receiver Drew Davis, and even tight end Tony Gonzalez help Holmes and Schraeder with some chip blocks. In turn, quarterbackMatt Ryan got sacked once while attempting 48 passes (career-high 37 completions) in a 34-24 loss. This Sunday, the Falcons will face yet another strong defensive front in Cincinnati, led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Falcons will be without rookie left tackle Jake Matthews, who is dealing with a left ankle injury. That means Gabe Carimi starts at left tackle with Holmes at right. So maybe the Falcons will have to get a little "chippy" with the Bengals as well to help Carimi and Holmes on the edges. Those are likely to be the weakest links for the Falcons' line, considering Matthews and Sam Baker (season-ending knee surgery) were supposed to be the starting tackles at this juncture. "Again, this is a very good defense that has a very strong front,'' Falcons coach Mike Smith said of the Bengals. "They do a great job with their rotation. And, it's going to be important for us to protect the quarterback. "I thought we did a very good job last week against a really good defensive line in New Orleans. I think we're going to have to step our game up because this is a very physical group -- not only in rushing the passer, but in stopping the run. And we want to make sure that we can run the ball effectively as well.'' It should help Holmes to have a stout right guard next to him in Jon Asamoah. The veteran newcomer made an obvious difference in the opener, helping to keep Ryan's pocket clean en route to a franchise-record 448 passing yards. Capable veteran left guard Justin Blalock could benefit Carimi on the other side, considering Carimi hasn't truly played the left tackle spot in three years. The Falcons contend Carimi did an admirable job after taking over at left tackle against the Saints. But, he still could use Asamoah's help. "This biggest thing is just continuing to communicate and talk to them," Asamoah said, referring to the tackles. "You just have to calm everything down and just be clear with, 'We're going here and this is where we're stepping.' "They put us in all these situations every day in practice. We prepare so much that there is a level of confidence with two those guys (Carimi and Holmes). I'm not even worried about them. I'm not worried about anything." I think we have found a leader to our o-line " "This biggest thing is just continuing to communicate and talk to them," Asamoah said, referring to the tackles. "You just have to calm everything down and just be clear with, 'We're going here and this is where we're stepping.'
  17. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/8077/falcons-hope-to-be-four-wide-open FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Devin Hester didn't exactly beg for the opportunity, but the Atlanta Falcons receiver admitted he was anxious for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's call to 10 personnel. Such a look with four wide receivers -- Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Hester -- and just one running back was extremely effective for the Falcons in their 37-34 overtime win against the New Orleans Saints. "It's just a great opportunity to get more explosive guys on the field," Hester said Wednesday. "When you do stuff like that, it creates havoc for the defense. Defenses are not really used to offenses that run four wide. And now that we showed it, it's going to take up a lot of attention in their meeting rooms that they have to concentrate on more four wides." The Falcons used such an alignment on 19 plays. The eight plays run in the setup on third down included a 35-yard connection between Matt Ryan and Hester on third-and-8 on a drive that resulted in White's 2-yard touchdown catch. On the seven pass plays in 10 personnel on first down, the Falcons gained an average of 13.8 yards per play. Among the four plays using four wides on second down was a 23-yard Ryan to Douglas connection on second-and-7 that set up Jacquizz Rodgers' 17-yard touchdown run. Another was a 17-yard run by Steven Jackson up the middle on second-and-15, proving that spreading out the defense can open things up for the run. Such a concept might be an effective strategy for the Falcons going into Week 2, particularly with their foursome of capable running backs. Some of the Saints players mentioned after the game how they were taken off guard by the Falcons' 10-personnel look. "It worked really good," Koetter said. "I have never in my career been much of 10-personnel guy. Obviously, when we had Tony [Gonzalez] here, our philosophy was it's tough to put a fourth wide receiver in and take the best tight end to ever play off the field. The acquiring of Devin Hester and the fact that Devin has done such a good job of assimilating himself into the system, now we do have our explosive wide receivers. "We started with a very small package. It's going to grow all the time." Whether it grows this week depends on a variety of factors.The strong possibility of playing without rookie left tackle Jake Matthews (ankle) might mean the Falcons will keep their tight ends in to chip block, throwing off the whole 10-personnel concept. Plus the defensive coverage from the Bengals, of course, might dictate a different offensive attack for Koetter and the Falcons. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is fully aware of what the Falcons are capable of accomplishing with their four-wide sets. "Well, they've been pretty dynamic when they use four wide receivers," Lewis said. "They put two guys inside that can make plays where they put them. Their guys are all guys that have a lot of talent and ability. They're all good run-after-catch players, so you've got to do a great job against them."
  18. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/7986/snap-count-mcclain-plays-plenty#comments Note: Some of the snap count figures from Sunday's Atlanta Falcons-New Orleans Saints game in terms of which players participated were inaccurate. The following figures take into account how the snap counts were calculated in the final game book as it was posted. Falcons nickelback Robert McClain wasn't overly concerned about Josh Wilson being listed ahead of him on the depth chart, and for good reason. McClain figured he'd get plenty of opportunities regardless. In fact, he was the first and only nickel to take the field during Sunday's 37-34 overtime win over the Saints. And he made quite an impact, intercepting a Drew Brees pass in the end zone during the third quarter, setting upAntone Smith's 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown that gave the Falcons their first lead at 24-20. McClain played 51 of 75 defensive snaps, while Wilson only saw time on special teams. Here are some other snap count figures: Safety Kemal Ishmael played 14 snaps as the Falcons opted for a three-safety look, at times, with William Moore, Dwight Lowery and Ishmael all on the field. "I love it," Moore said of the look. "Kemal's a heck of an athlete, and I told him before the season ... I told you guys he showed up in training camp and he's been playing lights out. It's just showing a comfort with the coaches that we've got to get this guy on the field. And that's what we did." Julio Jones played 67 of 72 offensive snaps in his return from foot surgery. He had a team-high seven catches for 116 yards while being targeted nine times. Fellow receiverDevin Hester played 20 offensive snaps and responded with five catches for 99 yards while being targeted six times. The running back foursome broke down like this: Steven Jackson (32 of 72 offensive snaps), Jacquizz Rodgers (28), Antone Smith (seven) and Devonta Freeman (five). They accounted for 181 total yards (rushing and receiving) and two touchdowns. Rookie Prince Shembo played 10 snaps at inside linebacker alongside Paul Worrilow, who played every snap and tied Lowery for the team lead with 10 tackles. Shembo spelledJoplo Bartu (53 snaps). Osi Umenyiora played 32 defensive snaps as the designated pass rusher but was unable to record a sack. He had two tackles. Starting defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson played 43 and 34 snaps, respectively. Soliai's total accounted for 57 percent of the defensive snaps, while Jackson's was 45 percent. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will be able to decipher Tuesday what type of impact they made in those limited snaps. Speaking of defensive tackles, rookie Ra'Shede Hageman played 15 snaps. Along the offensive line, Gabe Carimi played 59 of 72 offensive snaps at both right and left tackle, while Lamar Holmes played 55 snaps at right tackle. The two knew they would have to rotate at right tackle going into the game. But Carimi ended the game at left tackle after Jake Matthews suffered a left ankle injury. Matthews played 30 snaps before exiting.
  19. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/7865/in-reality-kroy-biermann-not-distracted?src=mobile&rand=ref~%7B%22ref%22%3A%22http%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FkCnezaITEw%22%7D FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Many folks wondered initially about HBO's "Hard Knocks" being a distraction for an Atlanta Falcons team coming off a 4-12 season. Such didn't appear to be the case as the show concluded this week. "It was good," said outside linebacker/defensive end Kroy Biermann, who was featured at home during the documentary. "I think they portrayed the team very well. It added some very competitive elements to camp. And I think, overall, it went pretty well." [+] Enlarge For Biermann, being followed by cameras is a natural part of life. His wife, Kim Zolciak, stars in the reality show "Don't Be Tardy" on Bravo. Biermann, of course, plays a big part in the show. However, he insisted it hasn't detracted from what he is trying to accomplish for the Falcons. "Like I've told people in the past, that's her deal," Biermann said Thursday. "That's her job. That's something that she really enjoys to do. And, I don't mind. I'm around. I'm in the house. And so, that's kind of where you see me. I'm not really that big of a role in the show because it's her deal. But we're a family so when they're filming her, I might be around. "There are boundaries there that they know they can't cross with me. It's a balance, but it's not too hard." The reality for Biermann is he has to be more productive on the field going into his seventh NFL season. He has 16.5 career sacks and two interceptions, both returned for scores. Biermann's not expected to all of a sudden explode for double-digit sacks, but the Falcons do need him to be effective in a starting role. He played in just two games last season before suffering a season-ending Achilles tear. "I think I'm good and I think the preseason was a good test," Biermann said of his health. "I feel great. I'm ready to go. The biggest thing is switching to a little bit more coverage this year. I want to get that down. You never want to turn a guy loose because he might beat you. He may beat you because he got you on one play, but you never want to turn a guy loose. And that's mentally being prepared for the route you're going to see." In terms of his pass rush, you'll find Biermann working his hands and his technique with outside linebackers coach Mark Collins on a daily basis. "As far as rushing, I think physicality is going to be a big thing there, and it coming down to what [defensive line coach] Bryan Cox has coached me and the guys in the room to do, and implementing those points," Biermann said. "That's what's going to get wins out there as far as one-on-one stuff. "There's obvi0usly different aspects to the rush. There's angles involved. There's hands. There's feet. There's eyes. There's violence. All those things play a part. But one of the major components is hands. If you can get a guy's hands off you, you beat a lot of the other areas, forcing him to be kind of on and island when he can't get a hold of you. ... It's just fine-tuning those things, paying attention to detail, and training yourself to look at the things when you're supposed to look at them." We'll see if Biermann can put all those aspects together in time to enjoy a successful outing against the Saints on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan talked about where he believes Biermann stands coming off the injury. "I think he's coming along well," Nolan said. "He wasn't 100 percent when we started training camp -- I say wasn't. The part he wasn't obviously was the confidence that he has inside that everything's back to normal. ... For example, after the first game (versus Miami), I remember he said after the game that the stress that he put on it in a game was different than the stress that he puts on it in practice. The turf is harder on your legs than the grass is. "Outside of that, as far as doing his job, a year ago he started at the position he's playing now and it was the first year doing it. And then he only lasted a short while before he got hurt. So this year, it would have been nice to have that year under his belt of him doing it, but he hasn't. So there's some things that he's still picking up on the go." Sunday's opener will be the true test of where Biermann stands, and the Falcons hope he stands tall.
  20. http://espn.go.com/b...jected-roster-7 Examining the Atlanta Falcons' roster: QUARTERBACKS (2) Matt Ryan T.J. Yates You can't ignore the way Yates played in the preseason finale at Jacksonville, completing 15 of 20 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. It was a backup-worthy performance. Now, the Falcons will have to decide whether to keep three quarterbacks or take a chance of losing Sean Renfree with hopes of keeping him on the practice squad. RUNNING BACKS (5) Steven Jackson Devonta Freeman Jacquizz Rodgers Antone Smith Patrick DiMarco (fullback) Should be interesting to watch this group develop. Whatever happens, Smith proved himself worthy of more touches with an outstanding preseason. Let's see if he is truly incorporated into the game plan, as promised. RECEIVERS (6) Julio Jones Roddy White Harry Douglas Devin Hester Eric Weems Courtney Roby Here is my thought: As much as it would be great to see undrafted rookie Bernard Reedy make the 53-man roster, the Falcons have to think special teams here. Weems and Roby are guys willing to throw their bodies all over the field to make a tackle or secure a block. And with as disastrous as special teams were this preseason, the Falcons need strong contributions from guys like Weems and Roby. Reedy ends up on the practice squad. TIGHT ENDS (2) Levine Toilolo Bear Pascoe Pascoe wins the backup role for his blocking, but Mickey Shuler put up one heck of a fight. A concussion kept Shuler out of the most important preseason game and thus, gave Pascoe a little more advantage. OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10) Justin Blalock Joe Hawley Jon Asamoah Jake Matthews Lamar Holmes Ryan Schraeder Gabe Carimi Peter Konz Terren Jones Harland Gunn Holmes should be set as the starting right tackle after a strong preseason. Some of Konz's mistakes in the preseason finale make me wonder if rookie James Stone might get serious consideration as insurance at center. DEFENSIVE LINE (7) Paul Soliai Tyson Jackson Jonathan Babineaux Corey Peters Ra'Shede Hageman Malliciah Goodman Osi Umenyiora I really, really want to put Travian Robertson on this list. Seriously. But something tells me he is going to be one of the toughest decisions in the room. We will see how it unfolds. OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) Jonathan Massaquoi Kroy Biermann Tyler Starr Stansly Maponga It was a tough battle between rookies Starr and Jacques Smith, but Smith likely hurt his cause by being ejected for unnecessary roughness in the third preseason game. INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) Paul Worrilow Prince Shembo Joplo Bartu Tim Dobbins Still believe Shembo will grab a starting role over Bartu sooner than later. Veteran Pat Angererdoesn't make the cut. CORNERBACKS (5) Desmond Trufant Robert Alford Robert McClain Josh Wilson Javier Arenas Although Wilson hasn't been spectacular, the Falcons need experienced cornerbacks to go up against some of these high-powered, multiple-receiver offenses they will have to face. That is why McClain, Wilson, and Arenas need to be part of the defensive rotation as extra defensive backs. SAFETIES (5) William Moore Dwight Lowery Kemal Ishmael Dez Southward Sean Baker Baker was added here just in case Lowery and Southward have lingering concussion issues. Both missed time this preseason because of concussions, and Lowery saw his 2013 season end prematurely because of a concussion. SPECIALISTS (3) Matt Bryant (kicker) Matt Bosher (punter) Josh Harris (long snapper) As long as these three guys are just doing their jobs, everything should be fine.
  21. The Atlanta Falcons (1-2) play their fourth and final preseason game against theJacksonville Jaguars (1-2) Thursday night at Everbank Field. Here are a few things to watch: 1. The right tackle: The Falcons are set at left tackle with rookie Jake Matthews sliding over from the right side. Now it's a matter of solidifying the right tackle spot going into the Sept. 7 season opener against the New Orleans Saints. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said the competition is "wide open" with Lamar Holmes, Gabe Carimi, and Ryan Schraeder. Holmes has the edge now just based on experience from last year. Carimi, who just returned from an ankle injury, would appear to be the top competitor. Tice said Carimi was in line to be the swing tackle before Sam Baker went down with a season-ending knee injury. Schraeder is mean and nasty, but he's the dark horse. Let's see which guy is the most sound with his technique. 2. Fast track: During an appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks,'' general manager Thomas Dimitroff seemed to indicate the team had a decision to make between undrafted rookie receivers Geraldo Boldewijn and Bernard Reedy. Well, the decision might have been made for the Falcons as Boldewijn apparently is dealing with a hamstring injury. His playing status for Thursday remains unclear. If the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boldewijn plays through the pain and still makes plays, that might speak volumes about his value. But no one can discount what Reedy brings to the equation with his blazing speed and ability to go get the deep ball. We'll see if Boldewijn's hamstring issue gives Reedy the advantage. 3. Bubble watch: There will be plenty of other guys fighting for jobs Thursday. Some of the names worth monitoring include defensive tackle Travian Robertson, who has been solid throughout the preseason but might be caught in a numbers' game, and nickelback Josh Wilson, who started off strong during training camp but hasn't made many plays as of late while competing against Robert McClain and Javier Arenas. The backup tight end role seems to be down to the wire between Bear Pascoe and Mickey Shuler, although Shuler suffered a setback in missing the last game with a concussion. Coach Mike Smith contends the backup quarterback spot remains up for grabs, but it seems like T.J. Yates would have to pitch a perfect game to overtake Sean Renfree. We'll see. http://espn.go.com/b...lanta-falcons-4
  22. Some guys bond while out fishing. Others connect over beers at a sports bar. For Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo, such bonding occurred on the basketball court. Shooting hoops with retired former teammate Tony Gonzalez is how the 6-foot-8 Toilolo spent one of his days back home in Southern California this summer. The duo stopped by the University of California-Irvine in June after Toilolo returned from organized team activities. "We were on the same team,’’ Toilolo said of the pickup games. "Did we dominate? Tony did. He’s still got it.’’ Of course, Gonzalez was a two-sport standout at Cal who elected to play football instead of basketball and became the most accomplished tight end in NFL history. The Falcons aren’t asking Toilolo to duplicate Gonzalez’s football success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt for Toilolo to pattern his daily approach after one of the greatest. "I went by Tony’s house that same day and just got to talk to him,’’ Toilolo said. "He just asked me if I’m getting in my routine with some of the drills he showed me last year as far as getting in and out of my break, focusing on catching the ball. And then, he just talked to me about how something that was big to him was how big the mental part was. He even recommended a book for me to read: Malcolm Gladwell’s 'Outliers.'" Toilolo hopes to write his own story of success in 2014. His size should be an asset for quarterback Matt Ryan, particularly in the red zone. Last season, as Gonzalez finished tied for fifth in the league with seven red zone touchdowns, two of Toilolo’s 11 catches went for red zone scores. And the red zone already has been an area of emphasis for the Falcons after a rough start there this preseason. "I don’t know if I’m the answer,’’ Toilolo said with a laugh. "The coaches, that’s their area. Once we really start actually game-planning, we’ll kind of have more things called up. "I think that’s definitely somewhere -- as an offense, period -- the red zone is somewhere where you want to be really efficient. That’s somewhere we really want to improve, especially with the weapons we have. We can find some mismatches down there. And I’m sure Matt will find the mismatches.’’ Part of the maturation process for Toilolo in his second season is becoming a more reliable target and improving his blocking. It’s been interesting to watch him remain after practice regularly to put in extra work on the Jugs machine. "As far as for me, my hands have kind of been up and down,’’ Toilolo admitted. "I want to be able to make all the plays. It’s just a matter of focusing each and every play. I want to be automatic, whether it’s in practice or in games. "And I think that’s something where you build that trust with your quarterback, with the offense, with the coaches in practice by showing them if they come your way, you’re going to make that play. It starts in practice.’’ Ryan appreciates Toilolo’s desire to improve and his willingness to learn from Gonzalez. "I think it’s a really positive thing for Levine,’’ Ryan said. "Both of those guys developed a good relationship last year working together. And they’re friends. And Tony’s got a wealth of knowledge for Levine to pick at. Levine’s smart. He’s taking advantage of that. "The other really good thing about it, too, is as a mentor, Tony knows the guys that Levine’s working with, too. He understands how to communicate with me. We’ve done it for a long time. He knows how to get Levine to tap into the best with me because I think Tony did a good job with that. And I’m thankful to Tony that he’s continued to do it.’ ’
  23. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although Steven Jackson's workload continued to be limited to drills on a side field, the Atlanta Falcons running back keeps progressing in his recovery from a left hamstring injury. Coach Mike Smith didn't rule out having Jackson back in the mix for some preseason action, but the target all along has been the Sept. 7 season opener against the New Orleans Saints. "Steven is working and has increased his workload with the athletic performance people," Smith said. "He's come out and done back workouts. ... We're encouraged by what he has done over on that side with the athletic performance crew." Smith said he wouldn't count out Jackson playing in the final exhibition at Jacksonville (Aug. 28), but that game typically is a showcase for players on the bubble. Smith also wouldn't speculate on Jackson's return to practice, although he pointed to how defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to the field sooner than expected coming off an Achilles' tear after the team thought Peters might not be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. "It's going to depend on the individual in terms of how he feels," Smith said, referring to Jackson. "And once the doctor gives him the clear to go, then he'll go." Injury update: Smith said left tackle Sam Baker, who tore the patellar tendon in his right knee Saturday night, had surgery Aug. 20. "He's doing well," Smith said. "I haven't had a chance to talk with him, but I did get a report. The procedure went well." ... Smith said safety Zeke Motta will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list coming off neck surgery. That means Motta will miss the first six games of the season. But Motta's not expected to return in 2014. ... Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi remained sidelined with an ankle injury but is expected to play in the final preseason game at Jacksonville. ... TightMickey Shuler (concussion protocol) was not on the field Wednesday. Backup plan: The Falcons want to have the backup quarterback position solidified following Saturday's exhibition. Based on Sean Renfree's somewhat steady play and T.J. Yates horrible outing in Houston, Renfree looks to be well in the lead. "I think he's done a nice job," Smith said of Renfree. "He and T.J. Yates are competing for our backup quarterback. Both of them will get an opportunity to play in the game this week as well." Smith said Renfree was able to stay involved mentally, despite suffering a shoulder injury last season and being on injured reserve. "When you can't do it, physically, you've got to keep these guys engaged, mentally," Smith said." Practice squads: The NFL decided to add two more players to what was the eight-man practice squad. "We're very excited about adding two practice-squad players," Smith said. "The first thing it does is it gives (more) men an opportunity and a job, so I think all the players have got to be excited about that. For us, it gives us an opportunity to evaluate more players. It's all about development in this league. You're going to have injuries in this league. When you have two more players on your practice squad, you're going to get an opportunity to be very familiar with those [players]." Extra points: Tight end Levine Toilolo was the last player to leave the practice field as he caught passes out of the Jugs machine. ... Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong was rather vocal with the special teams unit at both the beginning and end of practice following a dismal showing thus far in preseason. ... Jake Matthews and Joe Hawley worked on some long-snapping after practice, maybe in case of an emergency situation. Josh Harris is the long-snapper. ... Receiver Courtney Roby remained away from the team as his wife gave birth in Indianapolis.
  24. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There hasn't been much game-planning on either side of the ball for the Atlanta Falcons, so mistiming on offense and miscommunication on defense shouldn't be overblown just yet. And with special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong forced to play so many young players to get a serious evaluation for his units, it's too early to declare special teams a complete disaster. But one aspect the Falcons need to get under control immediately is the penalty situation. Through two preseason games, they've been penalized 19 times for 171 yards. They've been whistled 25 times total, counting the penalties not accepted or offsetting. And it's not just the rookies making mistakes. Ten flags have been thrown against either starters or seasoned veterans. "Very concerned," coach Mike Smith said. "Fifteen penalties called in the game [at Houston]. There weren't 15 accepted penalties, but we've got to make sure that we understand how the game is going to be called from the officiating side. "They're going through changes. We're going through changes. There are a lot of emphasis points that the league has, basically, mandated. And we have to adjust to them. Up to this point, I don't know that we have, or anybody in this league has adjusted very well. Thank goodness that we don't have a lot of commercials in preseason games because [the games] would be really long." Of course the biggest points of emphasis are illegal contact by defenders against receivers 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and defensive holding. In Saturday game against the Texans, starting corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford both were whistled for defensive holding, although only Trufant's penalty was accepted. "We just have to adjust to it this year," Alford said. "I mean, they called it. All we can do is go back to the film with coach and see what we can improve on." Trufant was visibly upset with the call on him and threw his arms out in disgust. "All we can do is play," Trufant said. "There's always going to be bang-bang plays. Like Rob said, we've got to go to the film and just see what we could have done better." Safety William Moore offered his take on the penalty situation. "Flags kicked our ***," Moore said of the Houston game. "We had some opportunities to get off the field on third down, and we come up with some silly-*** penalties. And the refs weren't any lighter on us. We gave up 200-something yards in penalties. Hopefully that doesn't happen during the season." The starters are scheduled to play the entire first half and possibly into the third quarter against Tennessee on Saturday, so we'll see if the penalty issues are corrected.
  25. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Lamar Holmes admitted his mind wasn't totally there at times this offseason. Based on the circumstances, it's easy to understand why. Holmes was excused from a June 4 session of organized team activities after his grandmother, Olivia Sanders, had passed away in her Gastonia, North Carolina, home the day before. In talking about her death Monday, Holmes' lip started to quiver. It's evident how much his grandmother meant to him. "It was a dramatic blow because my grandmother, that's my heart," Holmes said. "She was the glue to our family; both sides of my family. She held everybody together on certain occasions. When she wanted the family together, everybody would just go to her house laughing and joking. "For her to pass, and for me to be up here and not really get to see her ... my mom called me and told me she was seeing signs of it. I didn't know how bad it was. And for me not to be there to give her a kiss goodbye, it hurt." Holmes said his grandmother, 69, died of heart failure. The reality of the matter didn't settle in until the funeral on June 9. "For me to have to go to the funeral home and just see her lying there ... it was just a gigantic blow to our family," he said. "We still haven't recovered from it yet." Holmes said he found it difficult to focus upon returning to practice. "The day after I got back, it was kind of hard because the image that kept playing in my head was my grandmother in the (casket)," Holmes said. "But after talking to (senior director of player affairs) Kevin Winston, he was like, 'Your grandmother wouldn't want you walking around here like a sad pup. She would want you to go out there and play for her.' "The instant he said that, it kind of hit something in me. I was like, 'You know Kevin, you're 100 percent right. I'm going to do exactly like that.' " Holmes won't get to share the news with his grandmother about possibly being back in the starting lineup at right tackle. Sam Baker's season-ending knee injury led to rookie Jake Matthews being switched to left tackle, allowing Holmes to immediate step in on the right side. Although Holmes struggled this offseason and was somewhat on the bubble before Baker's injury, he kept a positive outlook, thanks in part to his grandmother's words. "She always told me to have fun doing what you love," he said. "That was the main thing she always said. As long as you're having fun, can't nothing be wrong. She always preached that. With this opportunity now, she'd tell me to enjoy it."
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