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  1. Long Read What Falcons players had to say after loss to Saints Here’s what the Falcons had to say after the 43-37 overtime loss to the Falcons on Sunday: ALEX MACK, center On the loss: “This is really tough. It’s a heart-breaker. This is a hard way to lose in overtime. We put a lot into the game in our prep time, but it’s early in the season and we are going to see these guys again.” On the run game: “We didn’t run the ball quite as well as we need to. It would really help us as a team if we could use a bit more clock and run the ball. You’d like to be a bit more balanced.” On the drive at the end of regulation: “You’d like to be able to make that third down and continue the drive and score a touchdown. Put the game in our hands and not a coin toss. GRADY JARRETT, defensive tackle On the defense losing Ricardo Allen: “You tell me. We were down three of our top players. No excuses. The next man up. Rico is valuable to this overall defense.” On how they overcome this loss: “We’ve got to go back to work. We’ve got to go back to work. It’s one loss.” BROOKS REED, defensive end On the loss: “We are disappointed for sure. We have to get it fix for sure, you know. That’s something that we have to work on with some good preparations. That just can’t happen at the end. We pride ourselves in finishing games. We just have to be better.” On getting to Brees: “It’s was tough. The ball was coming out pretty quick. We are just trying to play sound football at the same time. We just have to get better. It’s something that has to improve for the next game.” On the game: “They did some things we weren’t ready for, but that is no excuse. We just have to do better and we will do better.” JULIO JONES, wide receiver On having to replace players due to injury: “We just do what we do. Every game is going to be different. This game was a shootout. Every game is not going to be the same. The defense will get it together, they’re down five starters, but they have to keep working. The defense played well for us today, it was a lot of injuries.” On scoring 30+ points and whether they have to score more to win: “It shouldn’t be nothing, we just go out there and try to execute every play. We want to score points, they were just the better team today.” On feeling helpless on the sideline during overtime: “I never feel helpless on the sideline. The thing is, I trust in our defense to step up and make plays. They did a good job for us today. We’re down a couple of guys, but next man up, we just got to keep working to get better on defense, that’s it.” On Calvin Ridley’s success: “I knew it all along, he’s a great player. You just have to let him play, and make plays, and he made some great plays for us today.” On Ricardo Allen’s influence: “He means a lot, especially to the defense. He’s the captain over there; he calls everything, making sure everybody is lined up and things like that. But I don’t know what is wrong with him yet, but like I said, next man up.” DESMOND TRUFANT, cornerback On what was said in the locker room after a tough last-second loss: “It’s not much to say. It is what it is. We didn’t hold up our end and that’s what it came down to.” On where the defense goes from here after suffering another injury to a key player: “We just have to keep pushing. I’ve seen the highs and the lows being here for six years, so all I know is to get back to work and keep fighting.” On the last drive: “I mean we were solid, we just couldn’t get that third down or fourth down stop. You got to tip your hat off to them. They played great. We didn’t, so it’s that simple.” On whether the NFL overtime rules are fair: “We had an opportunity to get off the field and we didn’t do that. So regardless of what the rules are you got to get off the field, it’s that simple. ROBERT ALFORD, cornerback On how the losing Ricardo Allen: “It’s next man up, that’s how we approach things here. Unfortunately, injuries happen, so here we have that next man up mentality. On what he said to Ricardo Allen after the injury: “Just went to check on him and tell him that I’m with him. I don’t know the diagnosis yet, so I can’t speak on it.” On how they can prepare for next week with so many players out: “At the end of the day, it’s that next man up mentality. Its football, you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to have nicks and bruises. So, all we can do is go back, watch film from today and see what we can correct.” On if he feels the need to step up his game with all the injuries on that side of the ball: “I try to step my game up each and every week no matter who’s on the field. That’s just me, I’m my biggest critic. I always go back the night of the game and just watch my technique and watch the things I can do.” FOYESADE OLUOKUN, linebacker On the game going into overtime: “Our thoughts are to make stops and get the offense back on the field. It’s frustrating as they are driving and you know you have to make the stop. That’s the first time I did that, NFL overtime style. That’s really frustrating, to be honest. We have to do our job and we didn’t do it.” On the blocked punt: “That side was a little wider. [Alex] Okafor had a good angle to the ball. I have to do a better job and kick him out.” VIC BEASLEY JR., defensive end On the Saints putting up 43 points: “It’s tough. I felt like we could have done a better job defensively. It’s heartbreaking but we are going to go back to the practice field and critique ourselves.” On the defense bouncing back from injuries: “It’s been a tough hit for us. It’s going to be tough to bounce back from a loss with Ricardo [Allen], another starter. Hopefully, we will have another man that can step up. It’s definitely a discomfort to the team. When I saw him get carted off the field, I realized that was another blow. He’s such a knowledgeable player who has helped us over the past three games and throughout my career. I hope the best for him.” CALVIN RIDLEY, wide receiver On today’s game: “It was a good game. We scored a lot of points. We knew it was going to be a high scoring game coming in. We just have to do better next time.” On sideline conversations with Julio Jones: “I don’t remember, he was probably saying ‘Good job’ and ‘Lets keep going’ and that we have to score more points.” On offense feeling pressure to score the amount of points in today’s game: “No pressure. Our standard is to score as many points as possible. One more point better than the other team.” On the matchups throughout the game: “I just came in ready for anybody, I was prepared. I was ready to play and help my team.” On breaking the rookie record for touchdowns: “I rather had the win, but it means a lot. It feels pretty good.” On Matt Ryan’s performance: “Amazing, he did great. He was out there playing ball, he was trying to win, but we fell short. But he did great though.” On how the offense has improved in the red zone: “We just have been practicing very well. We go out there and put the work in, and we get off the field. That is what we have been doing every day. Unfortunately, we fell short.” GUARD BRANDON FUSCO On bouncing back from today’s game: “We have a good veteran group of guys on this team that are going to take charge and make sure that this team moves on from this. It’s one game, but we have plenty more. What hurts about this is that it’s a division game, but we have to come back; we’re home next week, so we have to play well and get back on a winning track.” On factors affecting the running game: “It’s hard to say right now. It didn’t feel like we were in a very good rhythm. I think it was one guy here and one guy there that didn’t reach his guy, or just didn’t make his block. When you want the run game to go, it takes everybody. It’s not just offensive line, tight ends, receivers, its everybody.”
  2. Falcons have a gaping hole at defensive tackle atlanta-falcons By D. Orlando Ledbetter - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Posted: 7:00 a.m. Friday, April 20, 2018 FLOWERY BRANCH — First of a five-part series on the Falcons’ draft needs. Today: Defensive tackles. The Falcons’ board is set for the draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Arlington, Texas. The question is not if the Falcon will select a defensive tackle, it’s when they will do so. The Falcons have a gaping hole at defensive tackle with the departure of starter Dontari Poe. He signed with the Panthers in free agency. The top two defensive tackles in the draft, Washington’s Vita Vea and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, will not be available when the Falcons select with the 26th overall pick. The Falcons interviewed Vea at the scouting combine and had Payne in for a private visit. The Falcons have traded up in the first round in four of 10 drafts run by general manager Thomas Dimitroff since he joined the team in 2008. He’s traded up in the first round for left tackle Sam Baker, wide receiver Julio Jones, cornerback Desmond Trufant and defensive end Takkarist McKinley. If the Falcons want Vea or Payne, they’ll have to continue that trend. The third-rated defensive tackle, Florida’s Taven Bryan, likely will be available to the Falcons if they don’t move up. However, Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn could elect to add an offensive weapon in the first round and pick a defensive tackle later in the draft. In addition to the 26th overall pick, the Falcons hold picks 58 (second round), 90th (third round), 126th (fourth round), 200 (sixth) and 244 (seventh). Atlanta was awarded the final pick in the draft (No. 256) -- referred to as Mr. Irrelevant -- as a compensatory pick for losing five players in free agency in 2017. “I think when we talk about the Florida player, Bryan, he’s a guy from Casper, Wyoming,” said Gil Brandt, a analyst for Sirius XM NFL Radio and former personnel man. “They have short seasons. I don’t know if they have spring football and so forth. But I think he’s got a lot of upside and he’s only a three-year player at Florida. He has the size, at 6-(foot)-5 and almost 300 pounds. He’s got nice long arms. I don’t know what else you need.” Bryan, 22, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds. He grew helping his father, Brandy, a former Navy SEAL, with the family construction business. At Florida, he redshirted in 2014 before playing three seasons and entering the draft after his redshirt junior season. He earned the nickname “Wyoming Wildman” while amassing 10.5 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks over his career. “Bryan, as he develops, could play both inside and outside,” ESPN NFL Matchup analyst Greg Cosell said. “He has some individual plays, that quite honestly, make you think of J.J. Watt. He’s not quite there obviously on a down-to-down basis. But it’s probably fascinating to see where someone like Taven Bryan goes.” Like Brandt, Cosell believes Bryan will continue to improve. “He’s a kid who’s best football will be ahead of him,” Cosell said. “I know he’s a son of a Navy SEAL so I would imagine he’s grown up with some discipline. To me, he’s a real wild card in this draft because he can develop into a really good pro player.” The Falcons were in Gainesville, Florida on Wednesday to work out Bryan and other Gators players. “Defensive tackles who have some up-the-field ability, who can also play some three downs, I know that’s asking a lot, but that’s why we are talking about people like De’Ron Payne who can do that,” ESPN NFL front office insider Louis Riddick said. “Taven Bryan can do that. He has some of the best ‘get off’ that you will see in this draft from a defensive lineman. He’s in the back field so quick. ... He has to get better finishing plays so that he has more stats to get people excited.” The Falcons have scouted defensive tackles that could be available in the second and third rounds. The Falcons’ top personnel men and coaches went to Hays, Kansas to hold a private workout for Fort Hays State defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd. “I think that’s what they are looking for primarily is a defensive tackle or a defensive lineman,” Brandt said. Shepherd, 24, is 6-foot-3 inches and 307 pounds. He’s a late-bloomer and former walk-on from Ontario, Canada. He played one season in Canada and was out of football for two seasons before paying his way to Hays and walking on to the football team. “Overall, Shepherd is an up-the-field player who will face an adjustment period as a NFL rookie (not ideal for an older player), but his exciting traits suggest he will bloom into a starter as a rookie or early in year two,” according to Dane Brugler’s 2018 NFL draft guide. The Falcons also held a private workout with Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall and had him in for a visit. Dimtroff, Quinn, assistant general manager Scott Pioli, defensive line coach Bryant Young and director of college scouting Steve Sabo were on hand for the workout. Hall is 6-foot-1 inch and 308 pounds. He was not invited to the NFL scouting combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.76 seconds at the school’s Pro Day. He covered the first 10 yards in 1.66 seconds. Hall has that explosive athleticism that the Falcons covet and incredible strength. He has a 38-inch vertical jump and benched pressed 225 pounds 36 times. “I think as you get into the depths of the draft, you look at maybe Harrison Phillips from Stanford,” said Phil Savage, director of the Senior Bowl and a former NFL coach, scout and general manager. “B.J. Hill (from N.C. State) and a guy that I like is Justin Jones from N.C. State (and South Cobb High). I think he has elevated his draft stock. He’s going to go in that second- to fourth-round area. Those are a couple of names to keep an eye on as far as non-first round defensive tackles.” Defensive line guru Chuck Smith believes that Duke nose tackle/defensive tackle Mike Ramsay is underrated. Ramsay is from Smyrna and played at The Walker School for coach John East. He lettered four seasons and played in 50 games, with 25 consecutive starts to close out his career at Duke. “This kid one day is going to be a starter in the National Football League,” Smith said. Some have compared Ramsay, because of his build, with Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who also was underrated coming out of Clemson and lasted until the fifth round before the Falcons traded up to get him. A quick look at the defensive tackles: List of first-day picks (first round): Vita Vea (Washington), Da’Ron Payne (Alabama), Maurice Hurst (Michigan), Taven Bryan (Florida) Second day (second-third rounds): Harrison Phillips (Stanfor), Nathan Shepherd, (Fort Hays State), Rasheem Green (USC), Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), B.J. Hill (N.C. State) Third day (fourth-seventh rounds): Trenton Thompson (Georgia), John Atkins (Georgia), P.J. Hall (Sam Houston State), Justin Jones (N.C. State) Georgia: Atkins and Trent SEC: Payne, Bryan, Hand, Atkins, Thompson, Mike Ramsay (Kentucky), Breeland Speaks (Mississippi), Khalil McKenzie (Tennessee) ACC: Hill, Jones, Derrick Nnadi (Florida State), R.J. McIntosh (Miami), Tim Settle, (Virginia Tech), Andrew Brown (Virginia), Kendrick Norton (Miami) https://www.myajc.com/sports/football/falcons-have-gaping-hole-defensive-tackle/BrjysruloemaQz8HRM2zHK/
  3. When I heard about Jalen Collins PED suspension earlier this year, I was very disappointed. I wondered whether Collins had the mental fortitude to put in all the hard work necessary to play in the NFL. Now, at the start of training camp, we're hearing about the improvement in his craft. Way to go Jalen. Keep up the great work! FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins has been impressive early in training camp. “Jalen did make some plays on the ball,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Saturday. “We really want to see him battle.” Collins, who must serve a four-game suspension at the outset of the season for using performance enhancement drugs, was a second-round pick in 2015. Curtis Compton 072816 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins runs a speed drill during the first day of training camp on Thursday, July 28, 2016, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com He appears to be coming around after a shaky rookie season. “We played him both outside and at nickel,” Quinn said. “He’s really done a good job. I think the last three days, (what’s) jumped out to me is the finish and the reach that he has to go poke (out the ball).” link
  4. Falcons fans: Meet Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack By D. Orlando Ledbetter NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he can’t find a hole in Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack’s game. (Mike Groll/Associated Press) INDIANAPOLIS – Heading over to the Oil Dome in a few minutes. It will be a heavy media day with Falcons coach Mike Smith set to speak at 11:45 a.m. Check back around Noon-ish for video and a little later for a blog on some of the highlights and a story on Myajc.com. I wanted to share a little bit on potential future Falcons linebacker Khalil Mack, who played at Buffalo. Some consider him the best defensive player in the draft and he should be available when the Falcons pick at sixth overall. Here’s a story on him from Buffalo. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had heard all of the hype about Mack before he watched his film.“I didn’t know what to expect,” Mayock said. “I knew that he had a lot of positive reviews from around the country, but the first tape that I put in was Ohio State and he blew them up. He played all over the field. On the edge and dropping into coverage.” Mack, who was considered a two-star recruit coming out of Fort Pierce (Fla.) Westwood, had only one scholarship offer. … to Buffalo. He took it. Mayock believes he can play strongside and weakside linebacker and be an edge rusher. He could play that hybrid defensive end/linebacker spot the Falcons have tried to play Kroy Biermann in for the past two seasons under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Here’s more from Mayock on his film review of Mack. “The next tape that I put in was Kent State and he made a one-handed interception,” Mayock said. “He runs like a safety. He explodes off the edge. From my perspective, in today’s NFL, guys who have natural edge-rush ability are like gold.“You have to get them when they are available. I think he’s one of the elite edge guys in the draft. He hustles. He’s tough and he can play the run game. Unlike a lot of these guys, he can also drop in coverage. I have yet to find a hole in his game.” The running and jumping action doesn’t start until Saturday. But check back later in the day for videos, Smith’s interview and other items from the NFL scouting combine.
  5. http://www.ajc.com/news/sports/falcons-have-started-breaking-down-the-pistol-read/nXh7D/ FLOWERY BRANCH — Stashed somewhere in the Falcons’ facilities is a folder titled “Project P.R.O.” That’s secret code for stopping the pistol and read-option — P.R.O. — offenses. Like several teams around the NFL, the Falcons have spent additional time this offseason researching the pistol and read-option. The Falcons have already been to various college programs and have hosted some college coaches. The entire defensive staff went to Clemson in March to study the Tigers version of the pistol and their read-option tactics. The team had mixed results last season against the pistol and read-option. Carolina averaged 29 points in two games against the Falcons with quarterback Cam Newton triggering the Panthers’ read-option. Atlanta contained Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III in the read-option and then knocked him out of the game on his only rush. In the playoffs, the defense was ineffective against Seattle’s read-option and the team needed some late-game heroics from quarterback Matt Ryan and kicker Matt Bryant to advance. One week later, the unit was gashed by San Francisco’s pistol attack in the NFC championship game, losing 28-24. With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the defense gave up touchdown drives of 85, 76 and 82 yards as it struggled to stop the run and cover the tight end. “Every offseason we go and visit coaches,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “That’s part of the offseason process that we go through. Coaches are always exchanging information and ideas.” Clemson was a good choice to visit. Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd is an efficient operator of the pistol system. However, he rarely keeps the ball when they run read-option plays. The Tigers’ offense set 101 school records last season. “They do some very good things,” Smith said. “We always go out and we want to study people not only in the NFL, but we study people in college as well. We are always trying to be forward thinking.” Smith, who was a college coach for 17 years (1982-98), enjoys the exchange of information between different levels of the game. “I think that’s the great thing about the fraternity of coaching,” Smith said. “We were looking at all of the different things that they do, both offensively and defensively.” During the 2013 season, the Falcons will face Seattle, San Francisco, Washington and Carolina twice, all of them subjects for Project P.R.O. “We’re definitely crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s because the league is kind of coming to that, with these athletic quarterbacks,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “It’s kind of becoming a little bit like college in that aspect and some teams are multiple (threats). They do the regular, traditional-style offenses as well as going to the pistol and the read-option. That’s something that you really have to focus on.” Information gathered from out on the coaching trail is already being passed on to the players. “We’ve already put one day in the books, where it was pretty much just about the way we are defending the read-option,” Weatherspoon said. “We’re heading in that direction.” The Falcons are hoping to make the pistol and read-option offenses go the way of the wildcat attack that the Miami Dolphins popularized in 2008. It took about a year of defensive study before teams caught up to wildcat and figured how to slow it down. “The wildcat was rolling for a while,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Then I think it changed. There are some incredibly intelligent defensive coordinators and driven head coaches who are telling their defensive coordinators, ‘Figure it out and figure it out now.’ I think there will be a really interesting approach to how we are defending the systems that are in place.” But he stopped short of predicting extinction for the pistol and read-option. “It will be really interesting to see how things change going into the next year or two,” Dimitroff said.
  6. Im not expecting too much since DLed wrote it, but anybody with AJC subscription access, please post the article if they dont mind, thanks again!
  7. http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-fans/2013/02/10/are-drastic-changes-needed-on-atlanta-falcons-defense/?src=cb_section To be nice, the Atlanta Falcons defense has not lived up to expectations in a long time. To be blunt, the Falcons defense has been downright atrocious pretty much for the entirety of the Smith and Dimitroff regime. Faults lie vast and wide in a defense that doesn’t look much different from the one in 2008. Some has been coaching. Some has been drafting. Other parts has been scheme, while still other parts has been development. But all involved are to blame. 2010 saw a defense that finished top 5 in points allowed in the NFL, only to completely collapse vs. Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers in the second half. The Cage is Ready for the Off-Season 2012 saw the Falcons defense do pretty good overall against the pass and do a very good job at creating turnovers, but were horrid vs. the run and even worse against tight ends in the playoffs. After nearly blowing one lead up 27-7 vs. Seattle, the Falcons did fall apart against the Niners and lose after being up 17-0 and later 24-14. It appeared as though once the defense or scheme was figured out, that was it, and the onslaught couldn’t be stopped. The playoffs were just the icing on the cake on the downright pitiful nature of the Falcons defense the last four years. It’s hard to argue against completely imploding most of this defense in some form or fashion. Whether it be personnel, scheme, development, drafting, or all of the above. No Lack of Resources The Falcons under Thomas Dimtiroff have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball with little to no avail. 1st round draft picks have included DT Peria Jerry and LB Sean Weatherspoon. William Moore was drafted in the second round, along with recently departed Curtis Lofton. They have used plenty of lower round picks on defensive players as well, including Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Chris Owens, Dominique Franks, Vance Walker, Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi, Travian Robertson, Charles Mitchell, Akeem Dent, and Robert James, all of which either start or are on the team as depth. They drafted a handful of other defensive players that are no longer with the team including Spencer Adkins, William Middleton, Wilrey Fontenot among a handful of others. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan may be the most notable draft picks, but plenty have been used for defense as well. The Sidbury Mystery (AJC) Not only has TD & Co. used a bunch of picks on defensive players, they’ve also spent in free agency or acquired players via trade as well. The most obvious is Dunta Robinson who got an eye-poppingly enormous contract in 2009. They signed Mike Peterson to a decent contract. They re-upped Biermann, Stephen Nicholas, Jonathan Babineaux, and John Abraham. They signed Ray Edwards to help the pass rush and that will go easily go down as Dimitroff’s biggest free agent bust. He also traded for All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel. So where has this defense gone so wrong? It depends how long you have to listen. In all seriousness, this post is meant to look at the past errors and look to the future. A Few Really Bad Picks The most obvious one that comes to mind is one DT Peria Jerry, easily Dimitroff’s worst pick. He seemingly reached for a player that fell just because the Falcons had a need at DT. Jerry was slotted to go high in the first round and he started to sink fast, likely due to his major injury history. He got hurt in the first game played and just has never gotten back his collegiate form. Clay Matthews was picked one spot later. It still smarts to have to type those words. Posing for a Picture (AJC) Even worse of a decision was the idea to draft Jamaal Anderson out of Arkansas with the #8 overall pick. One Patrick Willis was picked just a few spots later. Not only did Rich McKay miss on all-world LB Willis, but there were 9 more players selected in the first round that went on to become a Pro Bowler (Darelle Revis, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Griffin, Joe Staley, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Meriweather, Jon Beason, Anthony Spencer, and Ben Grubbs). There’s a saying that when you miss very poorly on a 1st round draft pick (especially an early one) that it will set your franchise back almost 5 years. How long has this defense been struggling again? Poor Development This was mentioned in a previous post about the wide indictment on the lack of pass rush, seemingly forever. The Falcons have drafted plenty of “talented projects” that, if developed correctly, could conceivably become a starter or at the very least contribute on a regular basis. There’s many examples to choose from over the last five years, but a few stick out: Lawrence Sidbury and Chris Owens. Sidbury was a beast at the combine and in college with his amazing pass-rushing skills. He was one of the fastest defensive ends to come out in the draft that year and just seemed to have a knack for getting after the quarterback. He came on late in 2009 and notched a sack, fumble, and a defensive touchdown vs. Buffalo. The future was bright. The next year either saw him get injured or captured by a gang of soccer hooligans, because he only made appearances in 6 games. Many just scratched him up as a good talent that couldn’t convert to the NFL. Then the 2011 season came. It’s unsure of exactly how many limited snaps he got, but it was enough to set career highs in tackles (9) and sacks (4). Fans expecting a huge breakout with the addition of Mike Nolan and his use of edge rushers were in for extreme disappointment and bewilderment. He was only active for 10 games and notched a whopping 1 tackle on the season. When Ray Edwards was cut out, Sidbury was leapfrogged by both Cliff Matthews and rookie Jonathan Massaquoi. It’s one of the most frustrating mysteries ever involving the Atlanta Falcons. Sidbury is a free agent and there’s fear that he will go on to another team and blow up. Nolan Needs Some Weapons (AJC) Another example is Chris Owens. The former San Jose State cornerback shocked almost all Falcons fans when he was drafted in the 3rd round and everyone went “who?” Owens wasn’t the most highly rated, but he came on to start at the end of the year for the Atlanta Falcons, needing three straight victories to rid themselves of the “never-winning-back-to-back” curse, two of which were on the road. Owens held his own and did very well. Thomas Dimitroff goes out and gets Dunta Robinson in free agency and it seems Owens has regressed ever since, (even though he seemed to do much, much better in Mike Nolan’s scheme). It’s one thing for fans to speculate on potential that’s never actualized, but it’s quite another to see it with their own eyes either during the preseason or regular season, only either to regress or never be heard from again. Along with being one of the most frustrating things to fans, it’s also hindered production in not having younger prospects ready to take over for aging or unproductive veterans. Time for a Move to the 3-4 Some believe that the Falcons don’t have the personnel to convert to a 3-4 and would need a ton of infusion to make it work, from a big-bodied DT to 5-techniques DEs, and even inside linebackers. The counter argument is, can the Falcons afford to NOT convert to the 3-4? The Falcons have a ton of players that just don’t seem to fit in Smith’s preferred 4-3 alignment. Kroy Biermann, Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi, and several others seem more likely to flourish as outside linebackers in a 3-4, rather than true defensive ends in a 4-3. Stephen Nicholas looked pretty bad in his role as a 4-3 OLB trying to cover Vernon Davis and Zach Miller. Akeem Dent played in a 3-4 in college under Todd Grantham. Nolan even moved Jonathan Babineaux to defensive end to try and assist to stop the run. Owens Better Under Nolan (AJC) Not only does Nolan prefer the 3-4, but there’s also an argument that it’s much more conducive to find players that are suitable for the 3-4, as opposed to true defensive ends in the 4-3. In fact, almost all the best defenses in the NFL run the 3-4. The Falcons have obviously shown they can not develop their own effective defensive ends in the 4-3 (see Jamaal Anderson) or even pick them out in free agency (see Ray Edwards). And that leads into the next argument. Regardless of schemes, personnel, or players, the best reason to move to a 3-4 is that the 4-3 under Mike Smith is just not working. The 4-3 worked for Smith in Jacksonville, but it helped to have two behemoths at defensive tackle in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. For whatever reason, the Falcons front office have seemed almost averse to getting bigger defensive tackles, which has resulted in the no pass rush and recently weak vs. the run. Above all, five years of draft picks, free agents, and even a change in coordinators has resulted in a defense that just isn’t good and nowhere near dominant. In fact, this defense looks indistingiushable from the 2008 defense that both Smith and Dimitroff vowed to fix. That’s the most damning statement of all. Pitiful Punt Returner
  8. Atlanta Falcons: Safety William Moore not worried about a new contract 5:00 am December 5, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons safety William Moore, who’s in the final year of a four-year, $3.4 million contract, is turning in a big season. He’s the Falcons top tackler with 105. He has recorded eight pass breakups, four interceptions and one sack. But Moore, who will get some Pro Bowl consideration, is not worrying about his contract situation. “Me, personally, the best thing that I’ve got going for myself is that I play because I love the game,” Moore said. “I’m not just saying that because it’s the right thing to say, but I really love the game. I don’t focus on contracts or how much money is being paid. That’s all a bonus because just playing right now is all that I ask for.” Last season, the Falcons re-signed free safety Thomas DeCoud to a five-year $17.5 million contract. Baltimore safety Ed Reed has the highest base salary — $7.2 million — at the position in 2012. Moore figures there is plenty of time to take care of business. “Of course, I do have son to feed, but my name means more than anything,” Moore said. “I want to be a great football player more than anything.” It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Moore, who was selected from Missouri in the second round of the 2009 draft. Hamstring, groin and knee injuries led to a slow start to his career. After moving into the starting lineup in 2010, he was slowed last season by quadriceps and groin injuries that caused him to miss four games. Moore’s marauding style of play appears to be a good fit for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s scheme. He’s coming off perhaps his best NFL game where he had 11 tackles and two interceptions in the 23-13 victory over the Saints on Nov. 29. “You definitely want to pat yourself on the back for the hard work that you put in, not only during the season, but at the same time during the offseason,” Moore said. “I feel like I went to work this offseason, especially with a new (defensive) coordinator coming in. “I hit the books first. The new defense allows for the safeties to roam and I knew that. I knew I had to learn the defense to perfect it and to use it to my ability.” In addition to Moore this offseason, the Falcons must also address left tackle Sam Baker and decide on a possible extension for quarterback Matt Ryan. Baker is in the last year of his contract. Ryan’s contract runs through 2013, but he’s a primary candidate for an extension. Moore just plans to keep playing. “Most of all, I want to keep growing as a player,” Moore said. “I feel like I know how good I can be if I keep working hard. At the same time, I can help the team.” And he isn’t sure what to make of the Pro Bowl talk. “I don’t know what answer to give to that, but I know how hard I work,” Moore said. “I know how hard I’m going to work to be a better player. I feel like I can get better.” http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_blog
  9. Atlanta Falcons: Could Douglas takeover for ‘Fair Catch Franks’ in the playoffs? 10:10 am December 20, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter FLOWERY BRANCH — Until last Sunday, Dominique Franks had never played safety. But he was called in replace Hope when he left the game to be examined for a head injury. “You just always have to be ready,” Franks said. “I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can. I got a chance to get out there and play a little bit of safety.” Franks has played outside at cornerback and has been the primary nickel back, covering receivers in the slot. At safety, it’s a whole new ball game. “Really, you have to be more patient,” Franks said. “You are the last defense back there. You have to make sure that you don’t give up the big play and if anything breaks, you’ve got to come up and make sure you make the tackle.” Franks returns: Some fans on twitter have taken to calling Franks “Fair Catch Franks.” He has 17 fair catches and 20 punt returns for 154 yards (7.7 per return). His 17 fair catches are seventh-most in the league behind Jets returner Jeremy Kerley (31), Minnesota’s Marcus Sherels (26), Philadelphia’s Damaris Johnson (22), Green Bay’s Randall Cobb (21), Detroit’s Stefan Logan (20) and Miami’s Davonne Bess (18), according to NFL.com stats. His 7.7 yards per return is 21st in the league among players with at least 20 returns or more. Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin leads the league with an 18.7 averaged and two touchdowns. “Really, it’s just whatever I see back there,” Franks said. “Really, it’s just make a play. That’s all it is. Every play is different.” In the loss to the Saints at New Orleans, the Falcons let Harry Douglas return a punt late when they were trying to bust a big return. Perhaps, they’ve been keeping him on ice for the playoffs? http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_blog
  10. Atlanta Falcons Falcons look ‘Super’ in rout of the Giants, 34-0 3:49 pm December 16, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter The Falcons were called “solid” by John Madden. The Falcons were called a “fraud” by a scribe. But they just want to be called “Super ” as in Super Bowl champions — or at least serious contenders — and they were nothing but super in routing the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 34-0 on Sunday at a raucous Georgia Dome. The Falcons improved to 12-2 and inched closer to wrapping up home-field advantage in the playoffs while recording their 11th straight victory at home. The last team to come into the Georgia Dome and leave with a victory was the New Orleans Saints 26-23 on Nov. 13, 2011. The Falcons are 20-3 after losses on under Mike Smith and have not lost back to back games, when one of the games was played at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons needed a Green Bay loss or tie and a San Francisco loss to clinch home-field. The Falcons can clinch a first-round bye with a San Francisco loss. Green Bay improved to 10-4 with a win over the Chicago Bears. The 49ers played at New England in the late Sunday game. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons won all of the battles and the war, including a third quarter smack-fest between wide receiver Roddy White and Giants cornerback Corey Webster. While getting great interior pressure, they attacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning and intercepted two passes to open a 17-0 halftime lead. Quarterback Matt Ryan then tossed a 40-yard bomb to Julio Jones on their first possession of the third quarter to take firm control of the game. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field with 10 seconds left in third quarter. The defense, led by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, had three key stops on fourth down to throttle New York drives. Last week the Falcons loss to 30-20 to Carolina. They came out sleep-walking and dropped behind 23-0 as the Panthers scored on their first five possessions. Against the Giants, the Falcons came out alive and alert. On New York’s second play from scrimmage, cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted Manning and returned the ball to the Giant’s 16-yard line. After four straight runs by a hard-charging Michael Turner, the Falcons scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. After the Giants missed a 30-yard field goal attempt, the Falcons’ offense went back to work from their 20-yard line. After six plays and 26 yards, Ryan and Harry Douglas hooked up for a 37-yard pass play to move New York’s 11-yard line. After a 2-yard run by Turner and a 3-yard loss on a pass to Jason Snelling, the Falcons were faced with a third down. Ryan found tight end Tony Gonzalez in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. Bryant’s extra point made it 14-0. After an exchange of punts, safety Thomas DeCoud intercepted a Manning pass intended for Hakeem Nicks and returned it to New York’s 27. The offense was stopped when an end around pitchout to Harry Douglas was stopped on third-and-1. Bryant added a 38-yard field goal. The defense, which was getting nice pressure on Manning, came up with two key stops when the Giants went for it on fourth down. On the first stop, Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas stopped running back David Wilson for no gain. On the second situation, Samuel nearly decapitated wide receiver Victor Cruz on the pass breakup. On the third attempt, defensive end Jonathan Babineaux tipped a Manning pass attempt. The Falcons last home shut out was a 34-0 win over New England on Nov. 29. 1992. Their last shut out was a 24-0 victory over Oakland on Nov. 2. 2008 on the road. The Falcons, who were knocked out of the playoffs by the Giants 24-2 in the wild-card round, continue their march into the playoffs when they face the Detroit Lions on Saturday at Ford Field. Notes: A moment of silence was observed by the fans before the start of the game in honor of the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. The New York Giants always wore the letters S.H.E.S. on the back on their helmets.
  11. Atlanta Falcons: Is quarterback Matt Ryan in a slump? 7:30 pm December 5, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter IS MATT RYAN IN A SLUMP? He has just 2 TD passes and 6 INTs over the last three games. He completed only 54.5 percent (season low) of his passes against the Saints in his last outing and threw for a season-low 165 yards. The Ice Man worked on his strength conditioning in the offseason in order to be stronger down the stretch. Perhaps, the Falcons do need to sit him and get him some rest if they wrap up the No. 1 seed early. FLOWERY BRANCH — Quarterback Matt Ryan will try to bounce back from arguably his worst performance of the season when the Falcons face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Against the Saints on Thursday, Ryan completed only 54.5 percent of his passes and threw for 165 yards, both season-lows. With Ryan misfiring, the offense converted only one of 11 third-down attempts and needed five interceptions from the defense to help secure the 23-13 victory and put them in position to clinch the NFC South title. “I don’t worry too much about the statistics or those types of things,” Ryan said Wednesday. “We have to do a better job on third down. If we can convert third downs better, we’ll have a better chance.” Ryan had completed at least 60.9 percent of his passes in every game this season. He also completed more than 70 percent of his passes in four games, including 81.3 percent against Tampa Bay on Nov. 25. There were some dropped passes against the Saints, but the passing game was just a bit out of sync, according to coach Mike Smith. Ryan doesn’t believe there is cause for alarm. “We just missed on a couple of opportunities,” Ryan said. “We had some third downs that we fell short by a yard or two on a handful of those. It’s just the little things like that that get you into a rhythm. “We weren’t able to get that first first down in a drive that gets you going. We have to do a better job of executing. We weren’t at our best in terms of execution last week.” Ryan believes that revving up the offense is an ongoing process. “You’re trying to find ways to be better,” Ryan said. “I think we have target areas where we need to be more productive. I think our red-zone touchdown percentage can be better than what it is. That’s an area that we’ve been striving to get better at.” Ryan has completed 312 of 462 passes for 3,590 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 94.9 and is on pace to attempt a career-high 616 passes this season. His previous high was 571 attempts in 2010. With the Falcons going to a pass-first offense, Ryan spent part of the offseason working on his strength conditioning. Ryan will try to rebound against a feisty Carolina defense that has played the Falcons tough. Their past two games have been decided by one score. Ryan led the Falcons to a 30-28 victory in Week 4 with some late-game heroics and was seen by a TV camera telling the Panthers to “Get the (expletive) off our field.” Several Panthers told the Charlotte media that they remember those comments and want some revenge against Ryan and the Falcons. One player, defensive end Greg Hardy, went so far as to say that the 3-9 Panthers are better than the 11-1 Falcons. Ryan wasn’t asked about the comments during his media session Wednesday, but he acknowledged that the Panthers have been rather pesky. “It’s pretty much always a tough matchup with them,” Ryan said. “They played us defensively really well. We know going into it, they’re a physical bunch and the front four, they do great job of rushing the passer. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.” The Panthers sacked Ryan seven times. “They had a lot of success getting after us in the past game,” left guard Justin Blalock said. “We have to scout ourselves and figure out what we did wrong and what we can do better. Maybe there are adjustments as well. Top to bottom, we just need to play better, and everyone knows that.” But the Falcons didn’t seem too worried. “We just need a little tune-up,” right tackle Tyson Clabo said. “Just because you have a bad day, doesn’t mean you can’t fix it.” But the Panthers, unlike the Falcons, have not figured out how to close games. “Experience has a lot to do with it,” Ryan said. “When you have guys that have played and been in all kinds of situations, you learn that it’s going to be like that week-in and week-out, and you have to find ways to get it done. The reasons we’ve had a lot of success this year is we’ve found different ways to get it done.” http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-blog/2012/12/05/atlanta-falcons-is-matt-ryan-in-a-slump/?cxntfid=blogs_atlanta_falcons_blog
  12. Atlanta Falcons: Turner, Rodgers and Snelling form RB committee 5:00 am November 28, 2012 By Michael Cunningham FLOWERY BRANCH — If the Falcons are moving past their days of pounding away at opponents with running back Michael Turner then it could mean they are just catching up to the times. The NFL’s era of feeding the ball to one big featured back have faded in favor of spreading the ball around to multiple backs with different styles. For the Falcons, their 24-23 victory at Tampa Bay might have been the beginning of their full embrace of that trend. Jacquizz Rodgers played 31 offensive snaps against the Buccaneers compared to Turner’s 23. With the exception of Atlanta’s lopsided victory at San Diego, when Rodgers got extra playing time with the game in hand, it was the first time this season Turner didn’t get the most snaps among the running backs. “We feel like Jacquizz is a very viable option to carry the football and has done a nice job for us,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It has become more of the vogue thing to do, to have a ‘running back by committee.’” Atlanta’s victory against Tampa Bay showed the potential benefits of using multiple backs. Jason Snelling had three catches for 33 yards, Rodgers had a 32-yard catch and a 20-yard run among his 79 total yards and Turner powered in for a three-yard touchdown for one highlight in a 13-carry, 17-yard day. “For one thing, it keeps the defense guessing,” Snelling said. “We are similar but different styles of running and what we can do.” The upshot is that the Falcons are running the ball with less frequency and, when they do run, Turner is getting it less often. In each of Turner’s three previous full seasons in Atlanta (he missed five games in 2009), his rushing attempts were remarkably consistent: 67 percent of the team’s carries in 2008, 67 percent in 2010, and 66.4 percent in 2012. This season, Turner has 62.7 percent of Atlanta’s carries. Earlier in the season Turner said he’s a rhythm runner who needs a lot of carries to be effective. Now he said he’s learned to stay focused and be ready when he does get his chances. “I am pretty much used to my role now,” Turner said. “It’s been an adjustment, no doubt about that. I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do.” Turner’s efficiency is at an all-time low: He’s gained 3.5 yards per carry this season and, without dramatic improvement in production, is on pace for the worst mark of his career. His previous low was 4.1 yards per carry in 2010. Smith said he believes Turner still can be an efficient runner even with fewer carries. “I certainly do,” he said. “We have stated from the very beginning that we were not going to look up at the end of the season and see that one back has 300 carries. That’s not the way this offense is built now.” With 60 carries, Rodgers already has surpassed his total of 57 from his rookie season of 2011. At 5-6 and 196 pounds it’s not clear how many carries he could withstand though he’s certainly shown a willingness to run inside. “I can run between the tackles as well as run outside,” said Rodgers, Atlanta’s fifth-round selection in the 2011 draft. “I’ve been playing running back all my life so its’ a natural instinct. Once you get it, just run tough.” Falcons fullback Mike Cox said Rodgers is a “strong dude” for his size. “Quick in space but he also runs hard [so] it takes more than one person to bring him down,” Cox said. Rodgers’ performance against the Bucs earned him notice among experts scrutinizing Atlanta’s lackluster running game, with NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders going so far as to say: “Jacquizz Rodgers needs to be the starter [because] he gives the Falcons a lot more production.” ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski praised Rodgers for his ability to make plays in space, especially in the passing game, but noted that he’s “not a power runner.” “They’ve got to be careful they don’t get too far away from their core values of running the football,” Jaworski said. Snelling said the Falcons feel the same way. “We are still striving to run the ball and be a physical running team,” Snelling said. “But we have guys who can do different things: catching screens, catching the ball out of the backfield, short passes. Things like that can work as runs, too. Just having that diversity with our backs can help the offense a lot.” http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_blog
  13. Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner is ready if needed 5:00 am June 8, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter FLOWERY BRANCH – Much of the offseason chatter has been about screen passes and a vertical passing game under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. But the Falcons’ calling card over the past four seasons has been the rushing attack, powered by running back Michael Turner, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards in three of the past four seasons. He had 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He had 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010. In 2008, he rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. In 2009, he was slowed by a high ankle sprain and rushed for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games. Turner, who caught a career-high 17 passes last season, is embracing change. “Playing running back is playing running back,” Turner said. “You’ve got to get the tough yards and make explosive plays. There might me a little bit more passing than normal from what Falcons fans are used to. But you just have to be ready when your name is called.” Turner had 301 carries last season, 334 in 2009 and 376 in 2008. “Michael has been our workhorse for a few years,” Running backs coach Gerald Brown said. “We’ve discussed the possibility of making sure that we monitor his reps so that he can stay strong for us, through the season and into December. We feel very good about Jason Snelling and Jacquizz [Rodgers], who have played.” Turner just chuckled at the notion that his carries will be monitored more closely. “They always say that,” Turner said. Turner noted that Koetter’s Jacksonville offense led the league is rushing last season, with a rookie quarterback and an impotent passing attack. “I have to take my hat off to [Jacksonville running back Maurice] Jones-Drew for still getting the job done when they say he had no help out there,” Turner said. “We’ve got names across the board here. It gets me excited that he still led the league in rushing and did great things for them without any help.” Turner said he’s made sense of wide receiver Roddy White’s contention that they need to do less on offense for the unit to improve. “I understand what Roddy is saying by that,” Turner said. “It’s not all on Roddy. It’s not all on Matt. If we all contribute together or collectively, we are all doing less, but accomplishing more.” Turner is set to be backed up by Jason Snelling and second-year man Jacquizz Rodgers. The Falcons have high hopes that Rodgers can get handle an increased load. Turner is fine with splitting up some of the action with Rodgers, who will have the benefit of the offseason program this season. ”He got basically thrown into the fire right away,” Turner said. “This will slow things down for him a little bit and he’ll get into a groove. He’ll be ready to go this year.” Rodgers senses that he could play a big role in the screen game. “Right now, everybody is getting a shot at running screens,” Rodgers said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of that. Coach Dirk (Koetter) is huge on running the screen so we have a lot of screens in store.” Rodgers played in all 16 games last season. He had 57 rushes for 205 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 21 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. “What he was able to do with not having an offseason, we thought was really good,” Brown said. “With an offseason, we think it can do nothing but make him a better player. Even last year, when we game-planned, we made sure that Quizz had some touches because he can do some things in the run and pass game. He’s an explosive player and we’ll try to get him the the ball.” The Falcons released former Pro Bowler Ovie Mughelli over the offseason and will have a new fullback. Bradie Ewing, Mike Cox and Lee Meisner are competing to replace Mughelli. “Last year, Cox ended up playing from the Indy game on,” Brown said. “He’s an NFL veteran. Ewing has done some really good things since he’s been here. We are happy about the competition that we have at the position right now.” Turner, who turned 30 in February, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. “He’s been looking really good,” Brown said. “Physically, he’s running the ball well. He’s right on pace, where he should be. We expect the same thing that he’s been giving us. . . Mike is looking good.” –D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog
  14. Falcons: Hamilton elated to have Abraham back 8:18 am May 29, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter BIRDLAND – Here’s some Ray Hamilton from the rookie minicamp that I didn’t get to share with you all. Hamilton, the defensive line coach, shared some insight on his players and how some of the defensive package will change. ON ROOKIE JONATHAN MASSAQUOI: “He performed like we thought he would. He’s a guy that has some pass rush traits. Some pass rush ability. A lot of times those guys look really, really good with no pads on. Which, they are supposed to, seriously. If they are a pass rusher, then you’re supposed to look good when you have no pads on and he looked really good with no pads on. He’s a quick, explosive guy. He showed the ability to learn in our system. It’s just a matter of him picking up the system and blending in. When we put the pads on, when the real stuff starts, we’ll see how he does.” ON ROOKIE TRAVIAN ROBERTSON: “He’s a big guy that can move. He’s the biggest guy that we’ve had in camp since we’ve been here. But he’s a big guy that can move. A big, strong guy at the point of attack. He may be the strongest guy on the team. . . He looks good in there.” ON DEFENSIVE END RAY EDWARDS: “Ray was a little bit hurt last year. He came in after knee surgery. He came into a new system, but I thought that last year he was still a pretty productive player [against] the run. He was one of our best guys effort-wise. He played hard all of the time. This year, his second year in the same system — well most of the same system — he’s coming back, he should be fine this year. I expect him to do fine and get better.” ON DEFENSIVE END LAWRENCE SIDBURY: “He’s a guy that, we’ve got a good group of young defensive ends, him and (Cliff) Matthews, those guys this year have to come back, improve and show that they can be productive day-in and day-out and help us out a little bit. We expect him and Matthews to come in and compete for jobs.” ON NEW DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE NOLAN: “We’ll have a pressure-type defense. If you are pressing, then you are sending other people. You are sending some linebackers and defensive backs and stuff like that. It’s kind of like the Jets. The sacks are going to be spread around. If you are only rushing four guys, then your sacks are going to be mostly with your defensive line. In our system, we have other guys rushing and coming in there like that. The whole key is to put pressure on the quarterback. This is a quarterback-driven league. The whole key is to put pressure on the quarterback and make him have to make quick decisions. Hopefully, he’ll make some wrong decisions and then we’ll get some interceptions, sacks and everybody will be productive.” ON DEFENSIVE END JOHN ABRAHAM RE-SIGNING: “He’s an amazing guy. We were watching tape and at 34 years old, he can still do some things that I see young guys can’t do. We don’t expect him to slow down at all. He’s doing his rehab. He does his rehab program every offseason. His strengthening program. He’s phenomenal. He’s a rare pass rushing breed and he can still do that very well.” ON IF THEY HAVE TO COUNT ABRAHAM’S SNAPS BECAUSE OF HIS AGE: “We have a rotation on the defensive line. In a 60-snap game, he’s probably playing about 40 to 45 snaps, which is good for him. It keeps him going and keeps him fresh. Now, if a team is passing more, then he’s going to get more snaps. He can play the run and he can play the pass, so we just try to (rotate) him. . . Every team in the league now has seven or eight defensive linemen that they play. You try to roll those guys (into the game) and keep them fresh. We are the only people, besides the offensive line on the field that is making contact and wrestling with somebody on every single snap, so that wears your *** out.” ON DEFENSIVE END KROY BIERMANN DROPPING INTO COVERAGE MORE, PLAYING SOME HYBRID LINEBACKER: “He can do some things. I don’t’ know how much we’re going to be doing that with him. He can do some things in some different categories that we haven’t done in the past in our defense. He’ll be a guy that can do some things, but I don’t know how much of it we’re going to be doing.” Tweet –D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog
  15. Falcons rookie Lamar Holmes ready to take next step Atlanta Falcons 10:41 p.m. Saturday, May 12, 2012 By Chris Vivlamore The Atlanta Journal-Constitution FLOWERY BRANCH — Lamar Holmes is not short on self-confidence. The trait has served him well throughout his football career — first high school, then college and now, he hopes, in the NFL. The Falcons drafted Holmes in the third round last month, higher than the offensive tackle was projected to be taken. He was one of two selections made in an effort to improve an offensive line that struggled, especially in short-yardage situations, at times last season. The 6-foot-6, 333-pound Holmes, who played at Southern Mississippi, is ready to take the next step. “I do,” Holmes said when asked following his selection if he could compete for a starting job with the Falcons. “I feel like I can come in there and be a contributor from Day 1, because I’m going to work and whoever is across from me, I’m going to make them work hard every day, all day.” Holmes, who wears No. 76, was a spectator at the Falcons’ three-day rookie camp because of a toe injury that has him in a walking boot. Because he is injured, the Falcons would not allow Holmes to speak to the media. His coach at Hunter Huss High in Gastonia, N.C., remembers the “big kid, a little overweight” who showed up in ninth grade and thought he was a basketball player. He played varsity right away, and according to coach Steve Gardner, it didn’t take long for Holmes to re-think his career options. By the time he was a sophomore he was no longer playing basketball. “We’ve always known Lamar was going to go as far as he wanted to,” Gardner said. “He was always confident. He kept saying ‘I’m going to get the job done. I’m going to play in the NFL.’ You’ve got to admire that much confidence.” While Hunter Huss produced NBA player Eric ‘Sleepy’ Floyd, Holmes is the first player from the school drafted into the NFL. Holmes had FBS scholarship offers out of high school but not the sufficient test scores. That didn’t stop him. He played two years at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi before he transferred. His coach at Southern Mississippi remembers the commitment Holmes made between his junior and senior seasons. According to Larry Fedora, now the coach at North Carolina, leadership was added to Holmes’ resume. “He played his junior year and did a decent job, but he wasn’t a leader,” Fedora said. “The summer before his senior year he just took off. ... He had potential because of his body size. He made a commitment to be a great player. He did everything we asked. He made himself into what he is.” Holmes was voted a team captain before his senior season. He believes the selection was made, in part, because his teammates saw how hard he worked in the offseason. Fedora believes the best is yet to come for Holmes in the NFL. He said the combination of the players’ length, athletic ability and footwork made him a good pass blocker. All were attributes that drew the Falcons’ attention. Fedora does not doubt Holmes will improve his run blocking to become a complete lineman. “His best football is ahead of him,” Fedora said. Holmes was predicted to be drafted between the fourth and sixth rounds. Fedora said he expected him to go higher when he received several phone calls from NFL teams inquiring about Holmes. Holmes held private workouts for several teams, including the Falcons. A session for the Panthers at Huss High lasted two hours. The Falcons traded down in the third round with the Ravens, moving from No. 84 to No. 91 overall to take Holmes. When Holmes is able to practice, at the end of the month for minicamp and organized team activities, he will be cross-trained at both left and right tackle. He was strictly a left tackle at Southern Mississippi, but played on the right side in junior college. Falcons coach Mike Smith said Holmes could even move inside and play some guard. “We really like his skill-set,” Smith said. Holmes must unseat a veteran to earn a starting position in his first season. Tyson Clabo, who made the Pro Bowl in 2010, occupies the right tackle position. The Falcons started last season with Sam Baker at left tackle before Will Svitek took over the spot. “I went to junior college when I was a freshman with my head down, just basically saying ‘I’ve got to go in there and take somebody’s spot. I’ve got to earn a job. I’ve got to be on the field. I’m not here to make friends,’” Holmes said. “I think that type of mentality, it carried me to where I am now. I went to Southern Miss with just the same mentality. And I’ve just got to keep doing it.” http://www.ajc.com/s...es-1436413.html
  16. Atlanta Falcons: 5 questions for rookie minicamp 8:17 am May 11, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter The nearly 50 players who arrived for rookie minicamp on Thursday have been issued their equipment. They take the field for their first practice at 3:30 p.m. today. (The minicamp practices, which run through Sunday, are closed to the public. The AJC posse of myself, Chris Vivlamore and Curtis Compton will be on hand for you guys.) Here are the five top questions for the camp: 1. Can second-round pick Peter Konz earn a starting position? 2. Can fifth-round pick Bradie Ewing beat out Mike Cox and replace Ovie Mughelli at fullback? 3. The Falcons new punt and kickoff returner is likely in this group. (My early favorite is Cody Pearcy, the speedster from tiny Huntingdon College.) 4. Does new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan yell as much as Brian VanGorder? 5. Will quarterback Dominique Davis serve notice to the veteran backups that he’ll be a factor in August? Here’s this morning’s story from the print editions: FLOWERY BRANCH — To state that Falcons coach Mike Smith is a rookie-friendly mentor would be an understatement. Quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and wide receiver Julio Jones, the five first-round picks during Smith’s tenure, have opened the season as starters. After a year hiatus, Smith and his staff will start to groom another rookie class with the hope that they can make immediate contributions as the rookie minicamp opens Friday and runs through Sunday at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch. Guard/center Peter Konz, the team’s top pick this season, in the second round, will start his quest to land a starting spot. In addition to Konz and the other five draft picks, 23 undrafted free agents, six veterans and 10 players on tryouts will participate. Konz, who was projected to be a first-round selection, will join the all-comers competition for the starting job at right guard. But before he can compete, the Falcons will indoctrinate him into their system during this minicamp. “I’m always ready to compete for a position,” said Konz, who left Wisconsin after his junior season. “I mean, any veteran deserves respect, and I don’t intend to just walk in and just think I own the place.” The last time the Falcons didn’t have a first-round pick was in 2006. They selected cornerback Jimmy Williams in the second round. Williams made seven starts and played in 27 games over two seasons before being cut in June 2008. He washed out of the NFL after twice violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Konz will face stiff completion from veterans Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, Vince Manuwai and Garrett Reynolds in his effort to land a starting job. “I intend to come in and work hard and get to know everybody,” Konz said. “I will try to fit in well with the team because that’s how we’re going to win.” The rookie minicamp spotlight also will be on fullback Bradie Ewing, a fifth-round pick from Wisconsin, because the Falcons released fullback Ovie Mughelli on Tuesday. The veterans set to participate are wide receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis, tight end Tommy Gallarda, linebacker Matt Hansen, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson and safety Suaesi Tuimaunei. Georgia tight end Aron White, Georgia Tech wide receiver Tyler Melton and Clark Atlanta cornerback Harcourt Farquharson head the group of tryout invitees. White foreshadowed his tryout with the Falcons at Georgia’s Pro Day as he sported a Falcons’ cap. “It’s just a hat that I have,” White said. “Of course I love the Falcons. Tony Gonzalez is one of my heroes growing up. He played at Kansas City right around the corner from where I grew up. I definitely have love for the Falcons.” White, who played his final two seasons at Georgia in the shadow of Orson Charles, caught 34 passes for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns over his career. Melton started 35 games for Tech, including all 13 games as a senior. He caught 17 passes as a senior, including 10 in the final five games of the season. He was an excellent downfield blocker and performed well on special teams. Farquharson had 41 tackles. He returned punts for the Panthers and averaged 14.5 yards per return last season. The other players on tryouts include Bowling Green offensive tackle Tyler Donahue, Washington kicker Erik Folk, Nevada running back Mark Lampford, Colorado State-Pueblo fullback Lee Meisner, Morehead State defensive end Jerome Raymond, Western Illinois kicker Taylor Rowan and Toledo wide receiver Kenny Stafford. –D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_blog
  17. Weatherspoon will be focal point of Nolan’s defense 5:00 am May 8, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter FLOWERY BRANCH – With middle linebacker Curtis Lofton leaving for the Saints, it’s clear that weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon’s role will expand under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. “I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing all of the time,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge. I think I’m ready for that, to do a little bit more and step out there and do some different things. I look forward to the challenge. I think it’s going to be fun.” Weatherspoon, a former first-round draft choice who is about to enter his third year in the league, had a breakout campaign in 2011. He finished with 127 tackles, four sacks, one fumble recovery, one fumble recovery, eight passes defensed and led the team with 14 tackles for losses. Weatherspoon sensed early this offseason that he could be losing Lofton, his training partner. In a recent Q&A, Weatherspoon touched on losing Lofton, Nolan’s intensity and on the team turning down an invitation to be on HBO’S Hard Knocks. ON HIS OFFSEASON: It’s been great. I’ve been back to Texas to visit the family a little bit. I’ve been back and forth and to California for a few weddings. Just having a good time, but at the same time making sure that I’m working out and staying in shape. ON HIS MEETINGS WITH MIKE NOLAN: We had our first meeting (recently). It will probably be our last one for a couple of weeks. Basically, what it was about was the vision that we see for our defense. We were talking about the cornerstones and what we want our defense to look like. I think it’s going to be a pretty fun year under Coach Nolan. ON ADJUSTING TO A NEW COORDINATOR: I think it will be a little easier than if we were coming off a lockout year. Now, that we are back, we can get into the terminology of Coach Nolan’s system. ON HAVING MOST OF THE GUYS PARTICIPATING IN THE OFFFSEASON PROGRAM: It’s a sense of security that everybody is out there doing what they are supposed to be doing. We have a way to be accountable. We trust each other. Just being around the guys, it’s always great to be around familiar faces. ON WHAT LOSING LOFTON MEANS TO HIM: I figure that I have to be a little bit more verbal. It’s not a problem for me to be in front of the defense making calls. I’m going to be doing that in the third down package a little more. I look forward to it. ON IF HIS RESPONSIBLITIES WILL CHANGE: Not really. Just on the third downs, from what I’ve been told, I’ll be the one getting the signals from the sideline. That’s going to be something that’s different because last year I might make a play and have a chance to celebrate a little longer. Curtis would round up the guys and then I would go to the huddle. Now, if I make a play, I have to make sure that I’m looking to the sideline so that I can get the call from coach and get the defense lined up and get ready to go. ON IF HE CALLED SIGNALS AT MISSOURI: I did do that. . . In my senior year I did move inside some and I set the defense. I went down to the Senior Bowl and [they] asked me to [call signals] and I did that as well. ON HARD KNOCKS NOT COMING TO FLOWERY BRANCH: A lot of people might think I am [upset] because I’ve been getting some tweets asking what my thoughts were. It’s old news. We passed on it and I look forward to just getting back and getting into the swing of things. ON REPLACING LOFTON: It’s a tough challenge because Curtis was a great football player. He made a ton of plays. He was a guy that was always around the ball. He was one of the smartest guys that I played with. Akeem [Dent] will get that chance to come in and be that guy in the middle. I think with his attitude and learning ability that he’ll do a great job taking that role. I think it will be fun to see him grow as a player. It will be a challenge because when you’ve had someone who’s been the focal point of the defense for three or four years, it’s going to be hard to replace. We are going to have to work hard together. Coach Nolan has a system in place. And, all of the older guys like Stephen [Nicholas] and even Lofa [Tatupu] coming in with his experience, I think we all will do a great job of moving on. ON IF HE SENSED THAT CURTIS WOULD NOT BE BACK: I did because we worked out together in Cumming. We saw each other every day. It’s just a business and you have to treat as such, because that’s how they treat it. I respect Curtis. I had fun playing with him and I wish him the best. ON HIS FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF NOLAN: I like his intensity. We break every meeting with ‘ready, break.’ That’s something that’s new. You can obviously sense that he’s intense based on that alone. He came into our [linebacker’s] meeting and when [linebacker] coach [Glenn Pires] was teaching us something, he was chiming in. I look forward to working with him a little bit more. I’m pretty sure that over the next few weeks I’ll get to know him a little more. ON THE KEY TO IMPROVING THE THIRD DOWN DEFENSE: Accountability and trust. I think us trusting in Coach Nolan and his system and becoming more familiar with it. I think we have the veteran guys here that we need in order to set the tone for the guys like myself, the younger guys and new guys coming on to the defense, we can set the tone to let everybody know how important third down is. It was a thorn in [our side] last year. We definitely have to step that up. I look forward to helping out with that as well as other guys, we’ve already been talking about it. –D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog http://www.ajc.com/s...tlanta-falcons/
  18. Fans Grade the Atlanta Falcons 2012 Draft 10:48 am May 2, 2012, by Dawson Devitt (D3) Great, Good, or Awful? After a long wait, it’s finally over and in the books. The Falcons took 6 players in the 2012 NFL Draft and reportedly signed another 20 undrated free agents. Immediate reaction here in The Bird Cage wasn’t very kind. Predicting what direction Thomas Dimitroff will go has become next to impossible. The Birds to add some beef and definitely didn’t wow many with no flashy picks and a handful of players that even the most die-hard draft researcher hadn’t seen. Feel free to use any grading system you want for the Falcons haul in 2012, but The Bird Cage will go with some simple terms of “Great, Good, Risky, Bad, or Terrible.” Even though many will disagree, here goes…….. 2nd Round Peter Konz – C/G – Wisconsin It’s really hard to argue with this pick at all. The Falcons biggest need has been offensive line for quite some time and Dimitroff took the best center in the draft and one of the best overall OL prospects in the draft. Almost every single scouting site or mock draft had Konz going either in the 1st round or the early 2nd round. Konz brings size (6’5, 314), toughness, leadership, and most importantly, talent to an offensive line in severe need of it. He offers a ton of versatility and Dimitroff and Coach Smith said that he will be competing for two spots (Guard or Center). If nothing else, Dimitroff hopefully just locked up an excellent starting Center for the next decade. Draft Grade – Great Pick 3rd Round Lamar Holmes – T – Southern Mississippi Here’s where most Falcons fans threw their remote or mug through their TV, or at least broke something close to them. The idea of adding more talent and beef to the offensive line has long been a cry for the majority of Falcons fans. In terms of potential, there weren’t too many left tackle candidates that has more of it than Holmes. But the problem is not necessarily the player, but where they drafted him. Holmes was roundly projected by almost every website to go somewhere around the 6th or 7th round and possibly even go undrafted. After not having a 1st or 4th round pick in this draft, many fans were livid with what seemed an outrageous reach. Even though scouting websites aren’t soothsayers, when it’s that much of a consensus, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t at least a little bit of a reach. Most fans expect 3rd round draft picks to at least contribute some as a rookie and everyone says he is too much of a project to spend a 3rd round pick on. Several things to be positive about this pick, however. Thomas Dimitroff is batting pretty good with his 3rd round picks since 2008. He has drafted 3 current starters (Thomas DeCoud, Corey Peters and if you include Harry Douglas in the slot) and one potential starter in 2012 (Akeem Dent). He missed on Chevis Jackson and most will say he missed on Chris Owens as well. If you assume that Dent has a place on the field in 2012, than Dimitroff is batting at a 66% rate and if you think Chris Owens still has something left, it’s even higher to 80%. In other words, previous “reaches in the 3rd round” have worked out pretty well to give Dimitroff the benefit of the doubt. While needing some major coaching, Holmes is everything that Sam Baker is not (big, strong, long arms, big hands, good pass protector) and the potential is certainly there for him to become a legit left tackle sooner rather than later. Still, this pick will have to be considered risky until proven otherwise, especially when he passed on guys like Brandon Thompson in the 3rd round. Draft Grade – Risky Pick 5th Round Bradie Ewing – FB – Wisconsin One reason Falcons fans quickly soured on this draft was that after many thought Lamar Holmes to be an unbearable reach in the 3rd and not having a pick in the 4th round, Dimitroff selected a….fullback? It is true that Bradie Ewing was the best fullback in the draft, but most believe that fullbacks should be taken towards the very end of the draft and possibly even as undrafted free agents. Ewing the player is a very good pick, but taking him in the 5th round with limited draft picks is hard for many to bear. Ewing has a lot of potential at fullback with him being able to do it all: run, block, hit, catch, and even line up at tight end if needed. Ewing is a load at 6’0 feet tall and 240 lbs running a 4.76 forty. Although some don’t like the pick, Ewing makes the second player in one draft considered the best at their respective position. Even though this sounds like a major cop-out, there is somewhat of a caveat attached to this pick. If the Falcons plan was to draft Ewing as the starting fullback for 2012 and the next 8 years or so, than this makes a lot of sense. Getting such a versatile prospect with so much potential and the best player at his position has to be thought of as a good move. However, there is a sneaking suspicion among many that the Falcons plan on keeping both Ovie Mughelli, who is coming off ACL injury and turning 32 soon for almost an almost $4 million dollar cap hit, and Bradie Ewing. Sure, it would be great to keep both, but both money and roster spots say differently. One thing fans want more of in the backfield is speed and Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, nor Jacquizz Rodgers offer that. Rodgers is very quick and elusive, but doesn’t possess homerun speed. If you believe that 5th round picks are destined only for special teams greatness, than perhaps this is still a good fit for you. However, if you’re only concerned with special teams duty and a backup fullback, that can be found with undrafted free agents. Draft Grade: Starting, Sole Fullback – Good Pick; Backup Fullback – Terrible Pick Jonanthan Massaquoi – DE/OLB – Troy Many didn’t really see this one coming either, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good pick. Massaquoi may not have the fastest forty time in the world, but the guy simply can get to the quarterback and penetrate in the backfield. He was a community college transfer to Troy University his last 2 years and really notched some impressive stats while there. At Troy, he collared 125 tackles, 31 tackles for loss, and 19.5 sacks. It’s somewhat hard to understand why the Falcons brass would take Massaquoi with so many defensive ends either financially committed (Edwards, Biermann, Abraham) or seemingly loaded with potential (Sidbury, Matthews). You can never have too many defensive players that can rush the passer, but this certainly will be interesting to see if any of the aforementioned players will have to look over their shoulders in camp. Draft Grade – Good Pick 6th Round Charles Mitchell – S – Mississippi State It’s hard to argue with the Falcons taking a safety for depth in this draft. In fact, many fans thought a safety pick would’ve come much sooner than it did. Mitchell seems to be a pretty good match with where he was picked. He was a 3 years starter in the SEC, which in and of itself is no small feat, and a tackling machine. In four years in Starkville, Mitchell racked up 238 tackles. His measureables won’t blow you away (5’11, 202, 4.63 forty), but he’s an aggressive hitter with smooth footwork. He needs some work on angles and pass coverage, but a good pick for safety depth as well as special teams. Many fans may wonder why the Falcons passed on more highly rated prospects George Iloka and Antonio Allen, among others. Draft Grade – Good Pick 7th Round Travian Robertson – DT – South Carolina Like taking Mitchell at safety, the selection of Travian Robertson in the 7th round appears to be another good pick with some upside at a position of need. Robertson is a big defensive tackle at 6’4, but only 302 lbs. His frame could possibly even support 10-15 more pounds. Another SEC starter for several years, Robertson had some pretty productive statistics in his final two years in Columbia with 91 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, and 6.5 sacks. Not too bad for a defensive tackle. While Robertson is not necessarily the big-bodied DT that many thought would be coming to Atlanta, he gives good depth to a position of need. Dimitroff struck gold the last time he took a defensive tackle in the 7th round with Vance Walker, who has steadily worked himself into the defensive tackle rotation. The only frustrating thing to some on this pick is the fact that the Falcons could have taken one of the better DTs in the entire draft if they hadn’t passed on Brandon Thompson (twice) in the 3rd round. Draft Grade – Good Pick Overall It certainly wasn’t the flashiest of drafts and there will be some major question marks until proven otherwise on some of the picks, but overall the Falcons added some major talent to the offensive line, took two players considered to be the best at their respective position, potentially nabbed their center and fullback of the future, a defensive player who can get after the passer, good and proven depth at safety and defensive tackle, and possibly their left tackle of the future. http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_fans
  19. What are Falcons Biggest Questions Heading to Draft? 10:26 am April 1, 2012, by Dawson Devitt (D3) In a pre-game intro to the draft, The Bird Cage takes a look at the Falcons biggest needs after the first wave of free agency and what direction the Birds might be headed. After keeping most of the core together and adding a few free agents, here’s a look at the Falcons biggest question marks as the draft approaches: Left Tackle It begins and ends with left tackle. Yes, there’s some concern at safety, defensive tackle, tight end, and several other positions, but the biggest worry is left tackle. Specifically, the failure so far to at least add competition to the mix of Will Svitek and Sam Baker. Right guard has at least 3 players competing for the spot in Mike Johnson, Andrew Jackson, and Vince Manuwai. Center appears to be in good shape with future Ring of Honor candidate Todd McClure battling promising Joe Hawley. Perhaps adding a left tackle for competition / development in the 2nd round has been the plan all along. Relying on Svitek and Baker alone with only new coaching is too risky for most fans. Right now, taking a left tackle has to be at the top of most likely to be taken with the Falcons first pick in the second round. Middle Linebacker One could argue that this position is a bigger question mark than left tackle since it is a truly unknown. At least Will Svitek has proven capable at LT. Although Lofa Tatupu was a proven Pro Bowler times three, that was before major injury and a long while since playing, especially in a 16 game season. Of course the biggest unknown is Akeem Dent. The surprise 3rd round pick gets his big chance to take over for Curtis Lofton. He played for an extremely poor defensive coordinator for his first 3 years and was caught in a transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 as a senior. UGA players also have a knack of being underdeveloped and turning out well in the NFL. One thing is for sure: Tatupu and Dent have their work cut out for them to replace Lofton’s production, at least in terms of tackling. Even though this a huge question mark for 2012, they have their players in place and won’t be looking to the draft for help. Safety This one is gaining momentum with fans recently. It makes a ton of sense. Currently, the Falcons basically only have a starting free safety that has under-produced the last two years and a very talented, but injury prone strong safety. Shann Schillinger is penciled in the depth chart as a backup for now, but will be in a heavy fight to make the roster. The Falcons chose not to keep James Sanders, at least for now. This would be a smart pick for several reasons. It would provide immediate competition and insurance for both safety positions. New DC Mike Nolan also reportedly runs sets of 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 and places a high emphasis on safeties who can cover and hit. It’s been a long while since the Falcons added talent in the secondary. Right Guard This one’s right up near the top as well, especially considering last year’s experience. The battle should be a good one between former 3rd round pick Mike Johnson, last year’s 7th round pick Andrew Jackson, and newly signed free agent Vince Manuwai. Some include Garrett Reynolds in that battle, but haven’t they already tried that experiment to poor results? After Harvey Dahl left in free agency, the position was a human turnstile with Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson (before injury), and Sam Baker all getting starts and subsequently losing the job. It got so bad that they had to bring in Joe Hawley to finish the season, when he had seemingly been drafted to be Todd McClure’s heir at center. Initially, some(author included) thought taking the best available guard would be a good way to go to shore up the offensive line, infuse talent, and get really good value. As it stands right now, that appears to be very unlikely since there will already be a 3 or 4 way battle for the right guard spot as it stands right now. Defensive Tackle Like safety, this position has been gaining steam among fans recently as well. Believe it or not, DL stalwart Jonathan Babineaux will be turning 31 this October. The position has been stabilized somewhat with the improved play and potential of Corey Peters, but this is definitely a position that could use some talent as well. Vance Walker is an excellent rotational DT and Peria Jerry is still seeking for a breakout year after being sidelined with injuries since his rookie season. With Babineaux’s increasing age and the position being one of the thinnest on the team, this would make a lot of sense as well when the draft rolls around. As Dimitroff proved with Corey Peters, you can get great value in the 3rd rounds with defensive tackles. Due to the thin nature of the defensive tackle spot and Babineaux’s age, defensive tackle is starting to look like a very strong candidate for the draft. Tight End This has been the top candidate for the Falcons to take in the draft for quite some time now. In 2009, it was Brandon Pettigrew who many thought would don red and black. Then the trade for Tony Gonzalez killed that. In 2010, some even thought that the Falcons would look to draft Gonzalez’s replacement and shock the world to take Jermaine Gresham. Most fans thought surely that Dimitroff would have to select an heir apparent last year and still not a TE card was pulled. It’s hard to believe that Dimitroff will elect to pass on tight end for yet another year. He found a good #2 tight end in Michael Palmer through the undrafted free agent route, but you don’t find many excellent tight ends without spending a draft pick on them. However, recent drafts have shown that you can get great value and starting caliber tight ends in the later rounds. The Patriots got Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd round and Aaron Hernandez in the 4th round in the same draft. The Saints took Jimmy Graham in the 3rd round and he has redefined the role of a tight end. This finally appears the year when Dimitroff will take a tight end pretty high. While not the deepest TE class in history, there are some intriguing prospects that could be had in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. With the news of Tony Gonzalez retiring after this season, it seems like almost a lock that tight end will be taken pretty early. Of course we’ve all come to assume the opposite with Thomas Dimitroff led drafts. Cornerback This is a very tricky one. The Falcons could elect to go ahead and draft a cornerback to add to their potential-laden group they already have and perhaps be ready to groom a possible replacement should the contract talks with Brent Grimes go south. However, with the Falcons applying the franchise tag to Brent Grimes, this appears, at least on paper, to be one of the more talented positions on the team. Grimes is coming back for at least one more year and surely Dunta Robinson should benefit from a more aggressive and proven defensive coordinator. Many were comfortable with Dominique Franks taking over if Grimes were to leave and that adds even more depth to the cornerback corps. Chris Owens may find a rebirth with Mike Nolan as DC and Darrin Walls showed major flashes of potential as a rookie. Although you can never have enough quality cornerbacks, this position seems to a year away from high priority or until the contract talks with Grimes are resolved. Either way, the cornerback groups seems to have as much potential as any position. Wide Receiver The top three are set in stone for years to come and that makes many fans very happy. Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas have the potential to be one of the best wide receiver corps in the entire NFL. Dirk Koetter should be licking his chops to make defenses defend all of these options at one time, unlike another coordinator who shall remain nameless. For the first time in awhile, the final two spots for wide receiver (#4 and #5) are wide open. This is definitely Kerry Meier’s best chance to not only make the roster but get involved in the gameplan. Meier the player has never been questioned, but his first two years in the pros have been marred by injury. Many think that Kevin Cone and / or Drew Davis are ready to make the jump from practice squad to active roster the same way Eric Weems did. The Falcons surely won’t use a high pick on a wide receiver and may even elect to pick up several WR prospects that go undrafted. Defensive End One of the hottest names to appear on many Falcons draft boards is DE Vinny Curry out of Marshall. As it currently stands, defensive end appears to be one of the lowest priorities for this draft. The Birds are locked in with John Abraham, Ray Edwards, and Kroy Biermann for at least a few more years financially. Also, many are hoping for big things from Lawrence Sidbury with Nolan taking over as DC and having a knack for maximizing speed rushers (Elvis Dumervil, Cameron Wake). Cliff Matthews showed some excellent flashes as a rookie in limited time in preseason. Unless Nolan decides to move Biermann and / or Sidbury to rush OLB, it seems that defensive end doesn’t appear to be high on the list as the draft approaches. Running Back Much like defensive end, running back seems to be pretty much etched in stone for the 2012 season. The Falcons have Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, and potentially Antone Smith as the 4 running backs ready to go. Hopefully, a bigger carry split is in order this year for Turner giving way to Rodgers and Snelling more. When the Falcons brought back Snelling, that basically ended any speculation of going running back in this draft. The Falcons do need to add more speed to the backfield, but it seems that Antone Smith will get every opportunity to be that guy. Some thought Turner may get traded or cut and the same goes for Ovie Mughelli at fullback. Others thought that Snelling could take over at fullback, thus paving the way for more speed to be added. None of that has happened and there’s no indication it will. We may be having a different conversation a year from now, but running back appears low on the priority list. http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_fans
  20. I am not sure if this has been posted before. http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falcons/talks-continue-on-new-1315201.html and here is the text. Eleven months ago, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons agreed to enter negotiations about a potential new open-air football stadium downtown. They're still negotiating, both parties say. A possible sign of movement came earlier this month, when Gov. Nathan Deal included money in his 2012 budget to purchase property next to the proposed stadium site. The GWCC Authority, which oversees the state-owned complex that includes the Georgia Dome, voted last February to negotiate with the Falcons toward a possible memorandum of understanding on a $700 million stadium that would be built about a half-mile north of the Dome. "We continue to meet with the Falcons on a whole array of business terms and items attendant to that," GWCC Authority executive director Frank Poe said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. "We have tried to quantify the issues that each side would have and talk through a series of items that are important for both sides, but nothing has been resolved in the form of an agreement." Asked how far along the process has moved, Poe said: "It would be hard to say we're 10 percent or 50 percent or 60 percent there. There are some areas where there is common acceptance of positions, but there also are a lot of areas in which we still have work to be done. It's not going to be something that will be resolved real quickly." The Falcons, who have made clear their desire for a new, more lucrative stadium when the Georgia Dome bonds are paid off later this decade, declined to comment on the status of negotiations beyond providing a written statement in response to inquiries from the AJC. "This is a complex deal which includes a good number of key stakeholders, including the state, city, county, our fans and the community," said the Falcons' statement, which was provided by Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the team's parent company, AMB Group. "When there are that many stakeholders involved, it's that much more important to get it right, which is what we and the Authority are trying to do. "There are no further developments to discuss at this point out of respect for the negotiation process." A memorandum of understanding would define the business relationship of the parties, according to the motion passed by the GWCC Authority, a state agency, on Feb. 22. It would include financing of the project, how much of the cost would be paid by the Falcons, how revenue would be divided and how a new stadium would co-exist financially and logistically with the Georgia Dome, among other matters. The possibility of a new stadium also has stirred public debate about whether one is needed, whether taxpayer funds should be used and how it would affect downtown. Poe said the GWCC's position is that if a new stadium is built, the Georgia Dome must be maintained as a "sustainable and viable" entity. He noted that events such as the SEC Championship football game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and college basketball's NCAA Final Four would not be played in an outdoor stadium. "The possibility of two stadiums ... complicates the business structure fairly significantly," Poe said. "Each issue that you surface may have different tangents that you have to chase down on both sides. ... Those are the types of big-rock issues that have got to be worked through in order to get to a point that you can say, ‘Yeah, we've got a deal that we can do.'" Over the past few years, several developments have advanced the ball toward a new Falcons stadium: In April 2010, Georgia lawmakers approved legislation that would extend the hotel-motel tax from 2020 to 2050 as a funding mechanism for a renovated Georgia Dome or a new stadium on GWCC property. Estimates were that, depending on economic conditions, the tax could cover about $300 million in stadium cost. In February 2011, Kansas City-based architecture firm Populous delivered a GWCC-commissioned feasibility study that said a new stadium could fit on a 28-acre site at the intersection of Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, a site that currently holds the Congress Center's truck marshaling yard (an area where trucks are parked during conventions) and the Yellow parking lot. This month, Deal included $15 million in his proposed 2012 budget for the GWCC Authority to purchase the old Herndon Homes property next to the potential stadium site from the Atlanta Housing Authority. GWCC spokesman Mark Geiger said the property could be used for a marshaling yard, for GWCC expansion or parking, or for a stadium. The property could provide more flexibility in stadium design. But "regardless of whether a stadium is there or not there, we have seen that property as important to the future of the Authority," Poe said. The Falcons see a new stadium as a public/private partnership, team president Rich McKay said in a November interview. He said the Falcons would pay a substantial but undetermined portion. At the time, McKay said he expected the team or the GWCC Authority to send out a request for proposals (RFP) to potential stadium architects by the end of 2011 in order to get a conceptual design and an updated cost estimate. However, the RFP has not yet been issued. Poe said that from the GWCC's perspective, the timing is not ripe for it, adding that it could "flow" from a memorandum of understanding if one is reached with the Falcons. The Falcons want to move into a new home when the Georgia Dome bonds are paid off, triggering the end of the team's commitment to play there. The bonds are scheduled to be paid off in 2020 but likely will be paid off sooner, perhaps as early as 2017. The Dome, which opened in 1992, will be 25 years old in 2017; several NFL teams have moved out of domed stadiums of approximately that age. The Falcons have resisted other options, saying a renovated Georgia Dome would not be a long-term solution and that a retractable-roof stadium would be too expensive. Poe described the negotiations as "amiable, collaborative and cooperative" and said there is no timetable for a resolution. "We're working deliberatively; we're not letting any time slip by," he said. "But we're not saying it has to be done on or before ‘X' date."
  21. FLOWERY BRANCH — Back in 1985, Dirk Koetter decided to leave the small town of Pocatello, Idaho, to chase his dream of one day becoming like his father. “We had a decent office,” said Reid, who now coaches the Philadelphia Eagles. “[Rowen] had playbooks from all over the country. We were well-educated.” Determined to follow in the path of his father, Jim, an Idaho coaching legend, Koetter set off on a journey that led to him being hired last Sunday as the Falcons’ new offensive coordinator. Reid and Koetter would stay together for nine years, going on to coach together at Texas-El Paso and Missouri. “He was the coordinator, and I was the line coach,” Reid said. “We worked hand-in-hand. I’ve got a few years with Dirk, and we’re good friends.” They both recall their start with Rowen as a vital first step in the profession. “He was a great coach of coaches,” Reid said. “A lot of guys came out of there and moved on to nice college jobs and into the pros. He taught us well.” While some questioned the Falcons’ hiring of Koetter because Jacksonville’s offense ranked 32nd in the NFL in total offense last season, Reid believes the move was a stroke of genius. “I would tell you that No. 1, he’s brilliant,” Reid said. “He’s got a great offensive mind.” Koetter watched his father coach in high school and then at Idaho State. Things didn’t go well at Idaho State, and the elder Koetter was fired after posting a 23-32-1 record from 1983-87. When his dad went to coach at another local high school, Koetter’s respect for him grew even greater. “At this point in my career, I’ve seen a lot of coaches on a lot of levels, and my dad is one of the top two or three coaches that I’ve come across,” Koetter said. “He’s a better coach than I’ll ever be.” Koetter studied his father’s organizational skills, how he handled people and the offseason weightlifting program he implemented before that was in vogue. “I knew I wanted to be like him,” Koetter said. The elder Koetter is 73. He and Koetter’s mother, Barbara, still live in Pocatello. They watch Koetter’s games on satellite television. “I’m sure they’ll be signing up to get all of the Falcons games now,” Koetter said. High praise One of Koetter’s first star pupils was Merril Hoge, at Highland High in Pocatello, where Koetter was his offensive coordinator. “He was forced to run the Wing-T,” Hoge said. “He doesn’t tell anybody that. In the first offense he coordinated, his halfback threw more touchdowns than his quarterback, and that was me. He’ll never share that. He’ll keep that a secret for the rest of his days, but I love him.” Hoge went on to play for the elder Koetter at Idaho State. He played eight seasons in the NFL after being selected in the 10th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987. “Him and his dad are two of the greatest football minds that I’ve been around,” said Hoge, currently an ESPN analyst. “I throw Chuck Noll into that category along with Ron Erhardt, Tom Moore and Bill Cowher.” He credits the Koetters for his professional career. “I knew the pro game,” Hoge said. “I knew how to pass block. I knew how to run routes. ... We were doing pro-style stuff in college and high school.” After his stay at Missouri, Koetter was hired by Tom Coughlin to be Boston College’s offensive coordinator in 1994. They never worked together because Coughlin left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former Falcons coach Dan Henning succeeded Coughlin, and Koetter worked for him. Years later, when Coughlin was in Arizona to play the Cardinals and Koetter was the head coach at Arizona State, he apologized to Koetter for hiring him and then bolting for Jacksonville. After his Boston College stop, Koetter went to Oregon and later landed his first head coaching job at Boise State, where he laid the foundation for the Broncos’ present-day success with back-to-back 10-win seasons and two bowl trips. “We got that Boise State thing going,” Koetter said. “I was the head coach there for three years and had an awesome staff. When I left, Dan Hawkins took it. Dan had been on my staff. Chris Peterson and I were together at Oregon. Chris took it from Hawk.” He left Boise State for Arizona State, where his offenses continued to put up big statistics, but couldn’t topple the powers of the Pac-10, now the Pac-12. His 2-19 record against ranked opponents was cited as one of the reasons for his firing in 2006. The next year, he was hired as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator. Talent on hand One undercurrent to Koetter’s career is that he has never had top-shelf talent. “He’s got more out of nothing than I’ve ever seen,” Hoge said. While the Falcons appear set to revamp their offensive line, Koetter has never had the collection of offensive stars that he will have at his disposal with the Falcons — tight end Tony Gonzalez, wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, running back Michael Turner, fullback Ovie Mughelli, right tackle Tyson Clabo and quarterback Matt Ryan. “People don’t realize that the quarterback they had in Jacksonville last year [blaine Gabbert] was horrible,” Hoge said. “It’s hard to coach somebody who’s scared.” Koetter looks forward to the challenge. “How everything fits together, that will be stuff that we’ll be working on,” Koetter said.
  22. It will be interesting to see how long they play to win, but we shall see. Helps us if they do. AJC Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy can do the Falcons a real solid. Word out of Green Bay is that Packers head coach will play to win the game against the Detroit Lions. (Guess he doesn’t like them very much or something like that.) My guys up there are not exactly sure what that means — playing to win. They are not sure if he’ll play his starters just a little bit or let them go the whole way. My folks could see him playing it like a preseason game and yanking his studs at halftime. The big question is whether if he’s going to allow wide receiver Greg Jennings, tackle Bryan Bulaga, defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and running back James Starks to play, all of whom are coming off injury. The speculation is that Jennings, Bulaga and Pickett will play a little and Starks won’t play at all. Offensive tackle Chad Clifton is going to play for the first time since the Atlanta game, but he likely won’t start. The word is that McCarthy really wants to win the game and he won’t rest massive amounts of guys. But he’s not going to be stupid either. The Falcons need to win and have the Packers beat the Lions to move into the fifth seed for the playoffs. They’ll likely get the Giants-Cowboys winner if they can move up. If they stay put at No. 6, then they are back off to New Orleans for a rematch with Drew Brees and the Saints.
  23. Atlanta Falcons5:54 p.m. Friday, December 2, 2011 Sidbury making Falcons take notice By Chris Vivlamore The Atlanta Journal-Constitution FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons have some tough decisions to make — on and off the field — and Lawrence Sidbury is right in the middle of a few of them. On the field, Sidbury has four sacks, tied for the team lead with John Abraham. The defensive end had two sacks in Sunday’s victory over the Vikings. The numbers are impressive considering Sidbury’s reserve role, as he gets between 10-20 snaps per game. “I think when a guy is productive like Lawrence was on Sunday, you’ve got to look harder at him,” Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. “He’s still a young player. I know he’s been here some years now, but he’s still a young player. ... He’s starting to finally get a little bit more comfort level with the NFL and our system. “Again, the production, the two sacks were outstanding. We have to take a good, hard look at him.” Off the field, Abraham is in the final year of his contract. The All-Pro defensive end will make $8 million this season. Both the Falcons and Abraham must decide whether he returns next season and at what price. In addition, fellow reserve defensive end Kroy Biermann is the final year of his contract. Sidbury has one year remaining on his four-year contract after being a fourth-round draft pick (No. 125 overall) in 2009. He is due to make $565,000 next season. His continued development will be a factor as the Falcons take a hard look at a roster that has 20 contracts set to expire after the season. “This is my third year,” Sidbury said. “You have to show something. I’ve been here two years, and it’s been a process for me. I’m just trying to make the best of my opportunities. “It’s been a learning process, honestly. I was raw when I got here and I think everyone knew that. At some point, you have to turn potential into production. That’s what I’m trying to do.” Sidbury praised the veteran leadership along the defensive line in helping him mature as a player. He credited Abraham, Biermann, Ray Edwards and former teammates Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis. “I feel fortunate because I hear stories from other teams where sometimes the vets don’t want to help,” Sidbury said. Sidbury (6-foot-3, 265) had two sacks Sunday that accounted for 13 yards of losses. He has eight tackles in the Falcons’ 11 games. “He’s done a nice job in his rotation,” coach Mike Smith said. “He’s taken advantage of his opportunities when he’s had an opportunity to get out there and be part of the rotation. When you have that type of production, it sure turns a lot of heads, not only on our coaching staff but on the opponent’s staff as well.” The Falcons are 27th in the NFL with 20 sacks, meaning Sidbury has accounted for 20 percent of the team total. While Sidbury insists he isn’t concerned with individual statistics, he is aware of the importance of getting the opposing quarterback on the ground. “Any pass rusher will tell you to get a sack is almost like scoring a touchdown,” Sidbury said. “It’s a big play for the defense. You destroy everything. ... It’s a big play for the team and not just for the person who gets the sack.” http://www.ajc.com/s...ke-1249459.html
  24. Latest update on Grimes surgery: "INJURY REPORT: Grimes likely out 2-3 weeks 6:59 pm December 1, 2011, by D. Orlando Ledbetter FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes underwent successful surgery to repair his right knee Thursday. “We’ve been in communication with him, and he’s finished with the procedure,” coach Mike Smith said. The Falcons have not set a timetable for his return, but players with similar surgeries are out two to three weeks, according to Dr. Jonathan Glashow, an orthopedic surgeon and co-chief of sports medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. Grimes had been playing with the injury since the Detroit game Oct. 23. “We see a lot of players who get tears mid-season and we try to put the surgery off until after the season if they don’t bother them so much,” said Glashow, who has been a medical consultant for ESPN. “Sometimes the tears get so big and bothersome that they interfere with their function or ability to run. … A lot of times we get players back in two to three weeks. It’s certainly been done before.” If Grimes can hit the early part of that window, he could be back in time to play against Jacksonville and have a game under his belt before the Falcons play the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 26 in a game that may decide the NFC South title. The surgery should not affect Grimes’ extraordinary leaping ability. “Unless it’s really a huge tear, which I doubt this is, mostly likely he’ll get everything back,” Glashow said. “Some of these young fellows are really incredible athletes, and they are able to return amazingly quick even after a surgery.” http://blogs.ajc.com...ta_falcons_blog
  25. From AJC Article: The Falcons and the Titans have beaten just one team with a winning record this season. The Titans beat Baltimore 26-13 on Sept. 18. The Falcons beat Detroit 23-16 on Oct 23. Baltimore and Detroit are 6-3. The combined record of the Titans’ victims — Baltimore, Denver, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Carolina – is 15-31 (.326). The combined record of the Falcons’ victims — Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, Carolina and Indianapolis – is 14-32 (.304). “It’s going to be hard to beat a team in Atlanta that needs to win as bad as we do,” said Tennessee coach Mike Munchak to the Nashville media on Monday. The Titans are coming off a 30-3 win over Carolina. Running back Chris Johnson broke loose for a season-high 130 yards against the Panthers. Here’s a look at the key statistics: 2011 Regular Season Statistics Falcons (rank) Titans (rank) 23.6 (15t) Points/Game 20.7 (21) 362.0 (12) Total Offense 318.3 (21) 121.1 (12) Net Rushing/Game 81.3 (32) 240.9 (12) Net Passing/Game 237.0 (14) 31:34 (7) Possession Average 27:54 (30) 21.8 (15) Opponent Points/Game 19.1 (7) 344.1 (14) Opponent Total Offense 349.4 (15t) 90.3 (3t) Opp. Rushing Yards/Game 125.2 (22) 253.8 (23) Opp. Passing yards/Game 224.2 (15) +1(13) . Turnover Differential. . +2(12)
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