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  1. There are 17 days until Falcons training camp, so here’s 17 players to watch Atlanta’s got plenty of players to watch, even with most competitions essentially sewn up. By Dave Choate Jul 9, 2018, 3:00pm EDT Believe it or not, we are just 17 days away from the beginning of training camp, including today. That means we’ll soon have real things happening at real practices to discuss, and I personally could not be more excited about that. In preparation for that, we’re going to start running down some of the story lines we’ll be watching ahead of camp, starting with this look ahead to 17 players from this 90 man roster that you’ll want to keep a very close eye on. As always, we welcome your suggestions for anyone we may have missed. QB Kurt Benkert: The rookie has a big arm and some real upside, and it’ll be worth seeing if he can grab a practice squad spot or steal a roster spot outright. RB Ito Smith: There are a couple of interesting undrafted free agents lurking in the margins here, so the Falcons will want to see something out of the 2018 fourth rounder. They do notwant to waste a pick the way they did with Brian Hill. FB Luke McNitt: The early favorite for the fullback gig, McNitt is a physical and confident blocker who paved the way for the Nebraska ground game. He’s my pick to win the job and should be watched closely along with competitors Daniel Marx and Ricky Ortiz. WR Calvin Ridley: Everyone’s going to be watching Ridley. He’s got a reputation as an advanced route runner and figures to get plenty of snaps in his rookie season, and the better he looks early, the more confident we can be in his chances of impacting the passing game early. WR Marvin Hall: There were flashes last year for Hall, who is the leading candidate to be the team’s fifth receiver in 2018 and could push for one of the returner gigs. There are a ton of competitors for that last spot, as there are every year, so it’ll be worth watching Hall to see if he can hold everyone off. TE Eric Saubert: The ultra-athletic second year tight end was in mothballs most of the 2017 season, but has drawn early praise for his work ethic and improvement. He has the talent to be a factor in the passing game, particularly in the red zone. T Ty Sambrailo: The presumptive swing tackle had decent moments but didn’t look like an inspiring option a year ago, and needs to show more heading into his second season. G Sean Harlow: Will he even make the roster? The athletic guard could be a factor down the line for an Atlanta team set to lose two veterans in 2019, but only if he survives this offseason. DE Takkarist McKinley: The Falcons are counting on McKinley to be excellent and to soak up a ton of snaps, and we’ll want to see improvement in camp after a quietly very good 2017. DE J’Terius Jones: The Falcons have a four man rotation at defensive end, but if they want to carry five players and give themselves a little more depth, Jones is the presumptive frontrunner. He flashed last summer at times and ended up spending the entire 2017 season with Atlanta, so he’s got a decent shot if the Falcons build their roster with five ends. DT Deadrin Senat: The rookie defensive tackle is strong as **** and was productive in college. How early will it translate over to the NFL? DT Jack Crawford: Is he fully healthy? If so, Crawford should be in line for a large number of snaps on third downs and obvious passing downs as a complement to Grady Jarrett. LB Duke Riley: He’s blazing fast and looked quite good at LSU at times, but he’s fresh off a disappointing 2017 season. The Falcons will be looking for Riley to step up and give them an interesting third option at the linebacker position. CB Isaiah Oliver: A stellar college cornerback with the length Dan Quinn covets, Olivershould start outside opposite Desmond Trufant in nickel sets, with Robert Alford kicking inside. He just needs to show he’s ready for the responsibility with a strong summer. CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson: Last year’s biggest surprise at the position, Wreh-Wilson played well enough to get C.J. Goodwin booted off the roster a year ago, and is probably a better corner than Justin Bethel. Can he make a strong case for a sixth cornerback gig or even shock and beat out Bethel? S Damontae Kazee: The second year safety and cornerback showed well in his limited 2017 action and figures to get time at multiple positions this summer. If he shows well, he might find himself earning playing time as a sort of a super sub. S Ron Parker: I was stunned when the Falcons got Parker in late June, given that he’s been a consistent starter for years now. Coming off his worst year in a while, will Parker prove to be a compelling third safety option for the Falcons? Share your picks to add to this list. https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2018/7/9/17542882/there-are-17-days-until-falcons-training-camp-so-heres-17-players-to-watch
  2. https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2017/11/23/16691608/falcons-have-top-5-offense-and-defense-per-pff-julio-jones-is-a-cheat-code-though The Falcons sit at 6-4 and are still in the playoff race, but this season has definitely felt like a series of underwhelming performances. For many fans, it was even more frustrating because they would argue that the Falcons have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Well, according to PFF and their latest power rankings, that belief is justified. For those who don’t know, PFF (Pro Football Focus) is an advanced stats site that covers the NFL and college football. Their statistics are used all over the league and are heavily referenced during Sunday Night Football games. They aren’t perfect (no statistics are), but they do give a pretty good idea of how guys performed and the quality of players over the course of a season. In their latest power rankings (Falcons are ranked 5th), they dropped this gem that caught the eye of yours truly: For those who don’t know, PFF (Pro Football Focus) is an advanced stats site that covers the NFL and college football. Their statistics are used all over the league and are heavily referenced during Sunday Night Football games. They aren’t perfect (no statistics are), but they do give a pretty good idea of how guys performed and the quality of players over the course of a season. In their latest power rankings (Falcons are ranked 5th), they dropped this gem that caught the eye of yours truly: It certainly helps that you have perennial pro-bowlers like Julio Jones and Matt Ryan on the field, but second year starters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell have all graded out very well this year. When you add in players like Grady Jarrett, Adrian Clayborn, Alex Mackand Devonta Freeman to the mix, it’s easy to see how this roster does “grade” highly. So why the struggles this year? Special teams can certainly be considered a factor, as well as some fluky as **** turnovers. In fact, even though he has 8 interceptions on the year, PFF has said that Ryan leads the league in fewest interceptable passes. His luck with tips and drops this year has been mind-blowing. We’ve often said this roster is too talented to struggle for too long, and recent games give us reason to believe they may be turning the corner. This is a roster that can compete with any in the league and these PFF rankings only cement that belief further.
  3. The Falcons’ most underrated defender is... All of our staff picks are from the team’s secondary. by Jeanna Thomas@jeannathomas Nov 16, 2017, 4:04pm EST Matt Chambers: Atlanta’s most underrated defender is Ricardo Allen. Atlanta’s secondary has gotten a whole lot of flak this season, which is crazy because there are playmakers at each position. The most underrated here is definitely Allen. We saw what the defense looked like when he was hurt, and I don’t want to see that ever again. He’s a tough hitter with great speed to patrol the center of the field, and does not get enough credit. Jeanna Thomas: Ricardo Allen doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Look no farther than the defensive lapses while Allen was out with a concussion. His role at free safety is more than just playing the position. The team relies on him to be that big-play eraser, but also keep the rest of the defense on track. Don’t underestimate the respect Allen has earned from his teammates and what his leadership means in that locker room, either. He’s fundamentally important to the Falcons defense. DW: Stop hating on Robert Alford ya losers Of all the players on this defense, Alford seems to get an inordinate amount of hate. His season started poorly for certain, but he has gotten better with each game played. He was a key factor in shutting down the Cowboys passing offense and is regularly in a position to make plays on the ball. His penalties always seem to get the most attention, but he regularly shuts down receivers for large stretches of the game. He’s not a perfect player, but he’s far better than most fans give him credit for. Dave Choate: It’s Desmond Trufant, somehow. Trufant regularly gets ripped for his mistakes, which are often minor, and I’ve seen suggestions that he be demoted/traded/released/fired into the sun this year. It boggles my mind, because Tru is simply one of the better cornerbacks in football, same as he has always been. As long as that misguided vitriol keeps up, he’ll be one of the most underrated Falcons. https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2017/11/16/16666692/the-falcons-most-underrated-defender-is
  4. Falcons post-draft roster review: Defensive Line by EricJRobinson May 24, 2017, 8:00am EDT Since day one of the Dan Quinn era, the mantra of “Fast and Physical” Falcons football was destined to be seen vividly on the defensive side. More in particular, the defensive line. Going back to those Seattle Seahawks defenses in 2013-14 that were ran by Quinn, while the “Legion of Boom” secondary bathed in the limelight, the defensive line was more of the engine of the entire defense. The same goes for the current day Falcons. Quinn’s vision is to implement that mentality across the entire defense but the defensive line is where all the attention goes to. This past season, the defense racked up 34 sacks, which was a significant jump from the lackluster 19 sacks in 2015. The Falcoholic roster review now turns its pages to the talented and deep defensive line. Current Depth Chart Starters: Brooks Reed, Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett, Ra’Shede Hageman Reserves: Takkarist McKinley (R), Derrick Shelby, Courtney Upshaw, Jack Crawford, Adrian Clayborn Special Packages: Vic Beasley Jr. After the establishment of Quinn as head coach, he has acquired or drafted nine of the 10 players listed above. Which goes to show the amount of work has been done to this unit since early 2015. Now the group as a whole has depth, girth, speed, and finally, versatility. A vital component to the unit’s effectiveness. In 2016, the team was led in sacks by strong side linebacker Vic Beasley Jr, who also led the league in the same category with 15.5. His progression this upcoming season will firmly establish Beasley as one of the league’s premier pass rushers. While listed as a linebacker on the depth chart, he does join the defensive line on pass rushing situations as a nickel defensive end. Offenses are now focused on stopping Beasley which makes the addition of Takkarist McKinley, 2017 26th overall pick, even more complicated for opponents. The 265-lb defensive end is a bolt of lightning on the field and on the microphone. His attributes matches the “Fast and Physical” perception the team is painting. The Falcons also received a gift in free agency this offseason by signing 346-lb defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The two-time Pro Bowler makes the defensive line even more scarier especially when you pair him alongside the quick Grady Jarrett, who posted three sacks in Super Bowl LI. Poe was promised to see a step back in game snaps during negotiations and that will save some wear on the massive defender, resulting in fresh legs for late game scenarios. Both Derrick Shelby and Adrian Clayborn suffered key injuries last season at various points which made them spectators during the Super Bowl. But both also have important roles going forward as the Falcons have a tendency to slide defensive ends into the interior on pass rushing downs to provide a little more quickness closer to the quarterback. The two also showed flashes during the season of being relied on the create pressure. Former Dallas Cowboy Jack Crawford fits that same formula as he was signed to a three-year deal this offseason. Late in the season, the team got a boost from 2014 draftee Ra’Shede Hageman. The scheme favors Hageman as it allows him to focus on gap penetration and attacking from the interior. All in all, there are enough ingredients here to make what was once an eyesore of a unit to one this is a concern to opposing coaches. 2017 outlook Versatility. The first thing that comes to mind when speaking on the Falcons defensive line. The missed opportunity in the Super Bowl sparked Quinn and the front office to be aggressive this offseason, especially when it comes to the defensive line. Veterans such as Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw help fill out the group entirely and will give the unit more chess pieces to disrupt. There is a clear emphasis within this group. That is to attack offensive lines with speed and athleticism (Beasley, McKinley), versatility and strength (Shelby, Clayborn, Crawford) and power with unique nimbleness (Jarrett, Poe, Hageman, Upshaw). Health is a factor here also and if all are relatively healthy, there is potential that this unit alone can be one of the more impressive groups in the league. On the result of the Falcons improving greatly as a defensive unit, the line may have great influence on that success. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2017/5/24/15651162/falcons-post-draft-roster-review-defensive-line
  5. UDFAs to watch during the Falcons’ rookie minicamp There are a lot of relatively unknown players participating in the Falcons’ rookie minicamp this weekend. Here are a few interesting names to keep an eye on. by Kevin Knight@FalcoholicKevin May 12, 2017, 12:00pm EDT We’ve, unfortunately, reached the relatively quiet time of year between the conclusion of the NFL draft and the beginning of training camp. News and topics of interest are few and far between throughout these dark times. Luckily for us, there are a few diversions scattered here and there. One of those is rookie minicamp. For those who aren’t aware, rookie minicamp is the first opportunity for rookies (and UDFAs, along with tryout players) to work with their new team’s coaching staff. It’s not incredibly meaningful in the grand scheme of things, but occasionally there are interesting tidbits of information that come out of the practices. Namely, you’d like to see your drafted rookies impress early. They’re going up against practice squad-caliber competition (or worse) for the most part, so they should be looking pretty good. However, there are always UDFA “diamonds-in-the-rough” that emerge each offseason, and rookie minicamp is their chance to stand-out from the rest of the crop before going up against seasoned NFL players. Here are a few of the UDFA players that I’ve found interesting. Keep an eye out for their names among the reports coming out this weekend. G/T Robert Leff - Auburn Leff was a late bloomer at Auburn that didn’t make a name for himself until his senior year, where he started all 13 games at right tackle. At 6’6, 299, he’s big enough to play on the outside, but his best fit in the NFL is likely at guard. PFF listed him as their #3 overall UDFA, and have lauded his run-blocking abilities as among the best in the class. He struggles in pass protection at times, particularly with length and power, but those weaknesses will be mitigated if he moves inside to guard. Leff may be the most polished UDFA offensive lineman the Falcons have, and with few veteran options available, he could sneak onto the roster as a back-up with G/T flexibility. OT Andreas Knappe - UConn If Leff is a polished prospect with limited physical upside, Knappe is the opposite. At 6’8, 311, Knappe is a monster of a man. He played three seasons at right tackle for UConn, starting every game in the final two. Knappe has all the traits you look for in an offensive tackle, but he’s extremely raw at this point. He’s also apparently the first Danish player to join the NFL since Morten Andersen. His physical gifts make him an intriguing fit for this offense. The Falcons have shown they’re patient enough to develop massive offensive linemen into capable starters (Ryan Schraeder, anyone?) and Knappe fits that profile perfectly. He’s a long-shot to make the 53-man roster, but Knappe should be a favorite for a practice squad spot. FB Tyler Renew - Citadel With the Falcons moving on from Patrick DiMarco this offseason, the team has been bringing in players to compete for the FB vacancy. Renew is an intriguing player that mostly played a halfback or “up-back” position in Citadel’s triple-option offense. At 5’11, 231, he’s certainly large enough to make the transition to a blocking role. He also ran a 4.57-forty, which is pretty impressive for such a large back. He had some impressive stats his senior year, including 1086 yards and 4 TDs. While he didn’t catch the ball often, he did make the most of his opportunities: his 5 receptions in 2016 went for 120 yards and 2 TDs—a whopping 24.0 yards per catch. Renew actually reminds me quite a bit of DiMarco, and I think he’s got a legitimate chance to wind up as the Falcons’ FB in 2017. QB Alek Torgerson - Penn It seems like the Falcons add a developmental QB from an Ivy League school almost every offseason. This year is no different, with the physically impressive Alek Torgerson from Penn. Torgerson (6’3, 230) has the ideal build for an NFL QB, with very impressive arm strength and a productive college career. He’s also athletic enough to make plays on the run, and is by all accounts a very hard worker in the film room. That’s good, because he’ll need to work very hard this offseason to have a shot at sticking around. Penn ran a simplified system with very little put on the QB’s shoulders—which means a serious adjustment for Torgerson to a pro-style system. Still, he’s got genuine arm talent, and his physical traits make him an ideal guy to stash and develop on the practice squad. LB Jermaine Grace - Miami Grace is an interesting story: he led the Hurricanes in tackles during the 2015 season, and was then dismissed for NCAA rules violations in 2016. Instead of trying to play again in 2017, Grace declared for the NFL draft. That’s an interesting strategy, but it appears the Falcons found his skillset intriguing enough to give him a shot as an UDFA. That aforementioned skillset is pretty impressive. He’s very good in coverage, and was an impressive athlete for Miami in 2015. The primary knock on him is size: Grace is listed at 5’11, 209. However, the Falcons have shown that they aren’t afraid to play “undersized” LBs. If Grace can bulk up into the 220s, he has a legitimate shot to earn a back-up spot at LB. He’s also shown himself to be capable on special teams, which helps his chances of sticking around. DE/LB Darius English - South Carolina English is a player that I expected to be drafted late on Day 3, but wound up falling out entirely. I’m surprised, as English has real potential as a pass rushing specialist with pretty good length (6’6, 245). However, he’s atrocious against the run and unrefined in his technique. His weight has also been a consistent problem throughout his career, and he’ll likely need to bulk up to survive in the NFL. Despite all that, English has a potential future in the NFL in a LEO-type role. He’s got the athleticism to succeed in space, and has shown flashes of coverage ability during his career. With some development and time in the weight room, English could become a rotational pass rusher in the NFL. He’s got a legitimate chance at the practice squad if he proves he’s willing to work hard. WR Garrett Scantling - Georgia Perhaps the biggest wild-card in the entire UDFA crop, Garrett Scantling hasn’t even played football since high school. He was a member of the Georgia track and field team from 2012-2016, and came extremely close to qualifying for the Rio Olympics. Scantling is a pure athlete at this point in his career, but Quinn has clearly seen something in him that piqued his interest. Scantling is coming into camp as a WR (the position he played—to some success—in high school), but it is expected that he will be a major player in the competition for punt and/or kick returner. It’s pretty unlikely Scantling goes directly from track and field to an NFL roster, but he has a real chance at sticking on the practice squad if he shows potential during training camp. What do you think about these particular UDFAs? Do you have any players that you’re keeping an eye on during rookie minicamp? Who do you think has the best shot of making the roster this offseason? http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2017/5/12/15616728/udfas-to-watch-falcons-rookie-minicamp-2017
  6. Will the Falcons use Brooks Reed more as a linebacker in 2017? The roster, as currently constructed, suggests that outcome. by Dave Choate Mar 21, 2017 Let’s take a brief look at the Falcons roster and see how many players will be logging time at defensive end in 2017, shall we? Vic Beasley Adrian Clayborn Derrick Shelby Jack Crawford Courtney Upshaw Probably an early round rookie draft pick Brooks Reed That’s likely seven names. Out of all of those players, only Beasley and perhaps the rookie in question are going to be able to log time at linebacker, as the other guys figure to be more inside-out defensive linemen who are options at defensive tackle. Now let’s look at the list of players who figure to be featured at linebacker. Deion Jones De’Vondre Campbell LaRoy Reynolds Kemal Ishmael Josh Keyes That grouping is considerably less deep. Reynolds is a solid linebacker and special teams asset, Ishmael looked interesting at linebacker last year, and Keyes has some promise. That group is missing a clear cut third starter for when the Falcons have three linebackers at the field at once, and could use more depth. Enter Brooks Reed. He spent much of last year playing defensive end, occasionally excelling and mostly just playing solid football there. He’s going to get snaps regardless at end, but he’s got a ton of experience at linebacker, and there’s a clearer path to playing time available to him there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and Brooks Reed on the field together on obvious run downs, and it might be the optimal situation unless the Falcons land a linebacker on Day 1 or Day 2 in April. If Reed can’t get on the field at linebacker, chances are he’ll be lightly used, and probably on the chopping block this time next season. We’ll see what his summer brings. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2017/3/21/14973542/brooks-reed-atlanta-falcons-linebacker-2017-season
  7. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2017/2/22/14691314/falcons-roster-review-wide-receiver-2017 I posted the entire article for anyone who may have trouble getting the link to work. If you can, go to the article to give them their "clicks". - Goober The Falcons had a historic offensive season in 2016, capped off by a Super Bowl berth and an MVP trophy for QB Matt Ryan. There were numerous contributors to that unprecedented level of success: a very good offensive line, a dangerous two-headed backfield, and a quartet of capable TEs. But perhaps the most important factor in that offensive explosion was the deep and talented WR corps. For a unit led by All-Universe WR Julio Jones, it’s hard to be “under-the-radar”. But that’s exactly what they were before the season began. Outside of Jones and big free agent pick-up Mohamed Sanu (who was referred to as a “bust” by members of the media), the Falcons didn’t possess any well-known talent at the position. That all changed during the season. Now this rag-tag group of misfits is in contention for the best WR corps in the NFL. Let’s take a closer look each receiver’s contributions. Julio Jones 83 catches, 1409 yards, 17.0 yards/catch, 6 TD Julio needs no introduction, and I’m sure we’re all very familiar with his game. He’s an incredible player and, in my mind, is by far the best receiver in the NFL today. We’re all thankful that he’s on our side. Julio’s under contract next season and hopefully will be until the end of time. Mohamed Sanu 59 catches, 653 yards, 11.1 yards/catch, 4 TD While most fans considered Sanu to be overpaid, he certainly played a very important role for the Falcons offense in 2016. A player with great size, strength, and under-valued route running ability, Sanu was a reliable third-down target for Ryan. He also provided a big body in the red zone, and he was occasionally useful as a “gadget” player on trick plays. He’s under contract next season. Taylor Gabriel 35 catches, 579 yards, 16.5 yards/catch, 6 TD The real surprise player this season was Gabriel, who was cut by the Browns prior to the start of the season and claimed off waivers by Atlanta. Gabriel was a blazing fast deep threat with uncanny agility and vision. He demonstrated rare ability in the open field and excellent route running ability. He’s a restricted free agent, and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in Atlanta next year. Aldrick Robinson 20 catches, 323 yards, 16.2 yards/catch, 2 TD Robinson was a player that Shanahan had worked with during his time with Washington. He was very effective as a rotational receiver, filling a similar role to Gabriel as a deep threat. Robinson showed off good hands and an ability to make plays down the field when called upon. He’s a free agent, though, and I’ll bet that Shanahan would love to bring him to the dumpster fire San Francisco. Justin Hardy 21 catches, 203 yards, 9.7 yards/catch, 4 TD Hardy was drafted in 2015 to help bolster the receiving corps, but he got off to a slow start. This season, Ryan was clearly more comfortable with him, and Hardy began to show flashes of why the Falcons drafted him: savvy route running and amazing hands. He developed into one of Ryan’s favorite red-zone targets towards the end of the season. Hardy remains on his rookie contract in 2017. Nick Williams 5 catches, 59 yards, 11.8 yards/catch, 0 TD Williams was on and off the practice squad after being a rotational WR for the Falcons in 2015. He performed a similar role this year, coming in for about one clutch catch a game when he was active. He’s a free agent and will likely be brought into training camp to compete unless he receives a better offer. Eric Weems 0 catches, 0 yards, 0 TD Weems didn’t contribute much as a receiver this year, which is probably a good thing for the Falcons. Where he did contribute was as a kick and punt returner, where he was average at best, and as a special teams ace, where he performed well as always. He’s a free agent this year. The Future Atlanta’s WR corps seems to be in excellent shape heading into the 2017 season. Julio and Sanu are under contract for the next several years and should provide a stable pairing for the Falcons to build around. Gabriel is a restricted free agent, and Atlanta should be able to keep him with a second-round tender. Hardy is likely to take on an increased role next season, allowing the Falcons to return their top-4 WRs in 2017. The question marks are Aldrick Robinson, Nick Williams, and Eric Weems. Robinson is likely gone, as he’s put out enough good tape that some team will make him an offer that the Falcons are unlikely to match. Williams is a depth player, and while he’s solid, I’m not sure the Falcons will go out of their way to bring him back. Weems is likely gone, as he offers little to nothing outside of special teams and his return skills are average at best. In short, Atlanta is in a great spot with their WRs for the foreseeable future. They also have last year’s seventh-round pick, Devin Fuller, hopefully returning healthy from injury. He’s likely to become the team’s new returner, and the hope is that he can also offer something in the passing game. What do you think about the Falcons’ situation at WR? Are you hopeful that they will continue to be one of the deepest units in the league in 2017?
  8. Ignoring the injustice and embracing an exciting Falcons contender A poor first half and horrific officiating shouldn't overshadow a spirited performance on both sides of the ball. by Allen Strk @Allen_Strk Oct 17, 2016 A moral victory is one of the most hated terms in sports. It demeans a team's overall ability, along with assuming a loss was inevitable. This shouldn't apply to the Atlanta Falcons. Three consecutive disappointing seasons left a disgruntled fan base concerned going into the season. Being completely outplayed by a below average Tampa Bay team in Week 1 only added more worry. With an upcoming brutal stretch, the season was already looking bleak in mid September. That perception was erased following four impressive wins. Besides this being a clearly different team, expectations weren't extremely high going into Seattle. Playing a rested battle-tested team in a hostile environment is always going to be challenging. It was important for the Falcons to hang with the most balanced team they've faced all season. They exceeded expectations and nearly defeated them with a furious second half comeback. Of course, the missed pass interference call puts a dark cloud over a game between two excellent teams. There are still plenty of positives to take away from this validating performance. Making adjustments The first half can't be ignored, as it clearly left the Falcons with a mountain to climb. Seattle's blitz packages proved to be a nightmare. Matt Ryan took nine hits on 21 dropbacks in the first half. With Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder allowing pressure on a consistent basis, Ryan took several devastating hits. Combine poor pass protection with Seattle's ultra quick linebackers and the Falcons offense was overwhelmed. Following last week's explosion, analysts were wondering how the Seahawks could contain Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman in the passing game. Blitzing relentlessly turned out to be an effective solution. Both running backs were forced into pass-blocking duties, as the running game was non-existent in the first half. Kyle Shanahan was going to be tested against a well-coached team and elite defense. It took some time, but eventually he responded brilliantly. Julio Jones hasn't been used in the slot very often this season. Coleman's emergence is attributed to being utilized in the slot. Shanahan decided to use Jones in the slot to create more mismatches. It worked instantly, as Seattle suffered a coverage bust and left him wide open on a touchdown. Richard Sherman rarely lines up in the slot. That allowed Jones more opportunities to make big plays, although he didn't have any problems when matched up against Sherman (when his arm wasn't being held). Although Michael Bennett's injury was beneficial, quicker passes helped tremendously against Seattle's defense. According to Mike Conti, Ryan was only hit three times on 20 drop backs in the third quarter. Sanu had one of his better games in a Falcon uniform. Shanahan may need to consider his limitations though. Sanu couldn't create separation on three straight pass attempts during the final drive. He is a solid possession receiver, who can make athletic catches across the middle. Asking him to run post or seam routes isn't going to produce big plays, when defenses are playing man coverage. Justin Hardy stepped up admirably for Taylor Gabriel. He caught three passes for 30 yards, which included two third down conversions. Hardy showed off his outstanding hands in highlight reel fashion on an underthrown pass. There are many positive upgrades about this current team. Wide receiver depth is near the top of the list. Sanu and Hardy made several plays against a stout Seahawks' secondary. Defensive shortcomings It wasn't necessarily a bad performance by the defense. Not finishing certain plays or tackles should leave a dissatisfying taste in Dan Quinn's mouth, though. Grady Jarrett continues to evolve into a top-tier defensive tackle. On several occasions, he failed to wrap up Christine Michael in the backfield, though, and it was reminiscent of a prime Jonathan Babineaux. An undersized defensive tackle, who can generate penetration and blast past interior lines into the backfield, but fail to complete some tasks that seem deceptively easy. Jarrett is the second best player on their defense. The only thing missing from his game is finishing at the moment. Russell Wilson stretches plays like no other quarterback. It wasn't surprising to see Dwight Freeney or Adrian Clayborn miss a sack by a mere second. Tackling remained an issue, especially with Kemal Ishmael and LaRoy Reynolds. The usually reliable Ishmael missed multiple open-field tackles. After playing at a high level all season, he was caught chasing open receivers on far too many occasions or taking poor angles. Reynolds is proving to be a decent backup, but he was caught tackling Michael too high, which translated into missed tackles as well. Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell should be inserted into full-time starting roles next week. A growing trend is Robert Alford's weekly penalties. A once-minor issue is starting to become a well-known habit across the league. Opposing quarterbacks will always target Alford, given Desmond Trufant's excellence. It has turned into targeting Alford without any hesitation in the hopes of picking up additional yards. Paxton Lynch did it last week to draw Alford into instant pass interference. Russell Wilson threw an immediate lob for Jermaine Kearse to draw an easy penalty. Despite Alford rarely allowing big completions, he shouldn't be committing the same repetitive mistakes. A talented cornerback can't keep grabbing opposing receivers excessively 15 yards downfield. Intelligent quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are going to test him repeatedly, as they know a big play is going to occur without even having to complete the pass. Unbreakable It was mentioned above, but Ryan's durability deserves more recognition. He took an absolute beating in the first half. It looked similar to the 2013-2014 meltdown games, when the offensive line couldn't stop anything. It was remarkable to see Ryan respond from such nasty adversity. There is no denying that Seattle got away with several late hits. Michael Bennett took multiple cheap shots, before getting injured on a Jake Matthews cut block. In an overly protective quarterback league, it was baffling to see zero roughing the passer calls. He never stopped testing Seattle's secondary deep, regardless of the constant pressure. After being labeled as a "dink-and-dunk" quarterback, he is being more aggressive and not turning the ball over. Besides throwing behind Jacob Tamme against Oakland, Ryan's other interceptions have been on a deflection and dropped pass. Viewing him as a MVP candidate didn't feel initially right. He certified his status in the most unforgiving stadium in the league, however. Looking Ahead Although the loss will be a bitter pill to swallow, the Falcons have taken unbelievable strides over this grueling stretch. Carolina's implosion puts them in a favorable situation. They know not to take anything for granted following last season's debacle. A controversial loss can only fuel the fire, and Quinn's reaction says it all. Nobody predicted them to start 4-2, given their opponents and reputation for being a poor road team. Those assumptions have been obliterated. They need to reclaim their home dominance, which made them into a yearly contender under Mike Smith. Based on the offense continuing to be productive and defense taking small steps, yesterday's loss shouldn't be considered a minor setback. This was a learning experience for one of the NFC's more unlikely contenders. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2016/10/17/13302736/falcons-loss-seahawks-atlanta-2016-playoff-contender
  9. Five 2016 Atlanta Falcons assumptions that may prove to be false By Dave Choate @TheFalcoholic on May 16, 2016, When you're a Falcons fan and there's months between you and actual football, you start making assumptions about what's ahead, and preemptively analyzing those assumptions. Quite often, though, we're all wrong, and here's five things we could very well be wrong about heading into 2016. 1) Devonta Freeman is going to dominate carries I've written before about why I think this might be an unsafe assumption, but here it is again. Freeman is the more complete back than Tevin Coleman by a wide margin and will get most of the snaps and nearly all of the targets in the passing game, but his actual rushing numbers were skewed a lot by a dominant less-than-half season stretch. He's a fine runner with patience and vision, so don't get me wrong, but Coleman is faster and more dynamic, and I could see him taking 30-40% of the carries in 2016. 2) Paul Worrilow is going to lose the middle linebacker job We've counted out Worrilow before (okay, it was mostly me), and we've been wrong every time. As an undrafted free agent, starting three straight years is mighty impressive, and Worrilow keeps doing so with a deft mix of valued leadership skills, good instincts, and a lack of competition. This year, of course, Deion Jones should be competing with Worrilow in the middle, and the second round pick is a faster player with far greater range. He's the obvious favorite, but he's got to bulk up and learn the NFL game before he can take that gig, and it's not necessarily a lock that he will do so. Worrilow may well ride again. 3) Ricardo Allen is locked in as the starter at free safety This is the shakiest prediction of the lot, but while Allen enjoyed a solid-to-terrific 2015, depending on your perspective and which games you're watching, I don't think we should take it for granted that he'll start at free safety this year. Keanu Neal is locked in at the other position, but solid veteran yo-yo Charles Godfrey and second year UDFA Robenson Therezie should be in the mix here. Ultimately, Allen should win this one, but I'm just saying, keep an eye out. 4) Courtney Upshaw is playing linebacker Upshaw has played a lot of linebacker, and on paper his fit there makes a lot of sense: He's a run-stopping force who could be a solid (at least) part-time starter on the strong side. He's got the size and skill set of a reserve defensive end, though, and that may well be where he ends up. If Upshaw is playing defensive end, he shouldn't have a ton of trouble beating out Malliciah Goodman for a roster spot, but he could have trouble finding a lot of snaps at the position. 5) Brooks Reed won't be great Sure, I think most of us hope he'll improve after a lousy, injury-marred 2015 season, but I think most of us have already assumed that Reed won't be more than solid this year. If he's healthy, the defensive line is as improved as it looks, and he wins a starting gig, though, I wouldn't be surprised to see Reed put up a few sacks, play some solid coverage, and stop the run effectively, living up to his contract this time around. What are your favorite assumptions that you think we shouldn't take for granted? http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2016/5/16/11677210/five-2016-atlanta-falcons-assumptions-that-may-prove-to-be-false
  10. The Falcons will need a different free agent strategy to redeem Dimitroff's missesBy Allen Strk @Allen_Strk on Jan 11, 2016, While past drafts haven't gone well for the Falcons, free agent flops have been much more common. Staying aggressive and properly addressing needs will be crucial for Thomas Dimitroff to justify his place as general manager. As teams were making moves immediately from Black Monday to Thursday, the Atlanta Falcons remained silent. Dan Quinn stated at the final press conference that he would evaluate the entire coaching staff and roster. Nothing was mentioned about upper management. Reports about the beleaguered general manager being replaced have surfaced since mid-December. He wasn't replaced, however. This is the second season that Dimitroff's job security was being publicly questioned. When any coach or general manager is on the hot seat for two consecutive seasons, it should be a telling sign about their performance. Dimitroff's poor draft history and minimal free agency success has led a once yearly-contending team into three consecutive disappointing seasons. Mike Smith was considered the root of Atlanta's problems based on his poor clock management and inability to outcoach above-average teams, and while those are valid critiques of Smith's coaching ability, labeling him as the main source of Atlanta's downfall is absurd. Briefly remembering past drafts Several analysts and commentators have mentioned Atlanta's lack of talent on both sides of the ball. From John Lynch to Brian Billick, it has been stated repeatedly that they need to start drafting better and signing quality free agents. Those statements are clearly directed toward the general manager. No player remains on the roster from the 2012 draft. Only Julio Jones, William Moore, and Matt Bosher remain from drafts between 2009-2011. Infamous players such as Prince Shembo and Dezmen Southward didn't make it past one season. When general managers can't hit on players in the third or fourth round, it's difficult for teams to have long lasting success. Not re-signing quality mid-round picks like Corey Peters doesn't help, either, though Peters missed the season for Arizona. During last March and April, I evaluated every draft from 2008 to 2012. You can see how each pick turned out after three seasons, which is the proper time frame to evaluate most players. Investing heavily on the wrong type of players With only five available draft picks in 2016, free agency will be an essential period for this organization. They have approached the past two off-seasons with flawed methods. What started Dimitroff's downfall was the lack of strategy following the Falcons' abysmal 2013 season. While injuries certainly marred them, the offensive line was overwhelmed and defensive line was pushed around on a weekly basis, along with generating a marginal pass rush. They were given the dreaded soft label. There was no denial, as Mike Smith preached toughness every ten minutes on Hard Knocks. Upgrades were needed immediately. Bolstering both lines with versatile players entering their prime should have been the main priority. The first day signings of Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson wasn't going to fulfill that goal. After re-signing Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters, adding multiple one-dimensional run stuffers didn't seem necessary. The lack of edge rushers was apparent on the roster. There wasn't any notion that we were aware of that the team should be signing Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, or Robert Ayers. Everyone believed that Atlanta was transitioning into a 3-4 scheme by aligning Babineaux, Soliai, and Jackson together. Mike Nolan always preferred using that scheme, which made the signings somewhat justifiable until reading the full details of both players' contracts. Despite being one of Atlanta's top defensive players this season, Soliai was paid as a premier nose tackle. Nobody ever viewed him as a game-changer. He never took over games like Vince Wilfork or Jay Ratliff. Jackson was a notorious underachiever, who managed to play exceptionally well against the run during his contract year in 2013. Both players were added to provide "toughness," as the organization clearly took offense to being labeled as soft. Completely mishandling the pass rush The real offense was constructing their defense like it was 2004. They built their defense to stop power-rushing attacks. After consistently being torched by Drew Brees and several other quarterbacks, acquiring at least one dependable pass rusher would have been ideal. If this team was going to run a 3-4 defense, how can any organization feel comfortable about going into the season with a 32-year old (rapidly declining) Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann as their main pass rushers? Biermann was coming back from a torn Achilles, which limited his impact. The only other options were Jonathan Massaquoi and Stansly Maponga. Goodman was bulking up to 290 pounds, which removed him from the equation. Not putting any emphasis on the pass rush proved to be detrimental. Atlanta only produced 22 sacks, which ranked as the second worst total in the league. A tough run defense never came to fruition, as they ranked 21st by allowing over 118 rushing yards a game. Usually, some type of turnaround occurs after guaranteeing a combined twenty-five million dollars for two defensive linemen. They only ended up being a part of the worst defense in the league. Instead of worrying about being perceived as soft, adapting to a pass-first league should have been the real priority. Wasting a dependable veteran like Babineaux on the edge for two consecutive seasons was pitiful. Biermann was forced to play 867 snaps, which shouldn't occur for a role player at best. Dimitroff needs to take responsibility for not acquiring one pass rusher on a defensive line that was riding on John Abraham's greatness for years. 2014 free agency put the franchise back for multiple seasons There were some decent signings from 2014. For the first time since 2010, the Falcons had an actual starter at right guard, when the team acquired Jon Asamoah. He was one of the few bright spots on an offensive line that started three different centers and four different tackles. Devin Hester was outstanding in his contributions as a wide receiver, along with his excellence as a returner. Both players had major impacts in their first season. One year later, Asamoah isn't on the team and Hester will likely be released. Jackson will be on the cut list as well, along with potentially Soliai. Four major free-agent signings potentially released after two years? That's not how you rebuild following an embarrassing season, new head coach aside. Super Bowl contending teams aren't supposed to fall off this quickly, yet here are the Falcons slumbering into 2016. Free agency isn't the blueprint towards becoming a perennial contender. We've seen Green Bay, New England, and Carolina develop primarily from the draft. That shouldn't discount the value of free agency. Denver and Seattle have benefited greatly from being aggressive in March. The brilliance of signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to short-term deals doesn't get enough recognition. They have formed a ferocious duo that torments opposing quarterbacks on a weekly basis. Seattle managed to re-sign this duo, although Bennett's outlook could get dicey. While Dimitroff lost some control, he remains empowered in all free agent decisions, as far as we are aware. The concept of acquiring several players for depth purposes was smart. Not signing a veteran linebacker last off-season left Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu overmatched as starting linebackers. Given his extensive injury history, relying on Sean Weatherspoon as their leader at linebacker without any other veteran presence would have been foolish, and that made Justin Durant and Brooks Reed smart first-day signings. While neither player lived up to expectations, addressing the linebacker position was essential in their rebuilding design. Jacob Tamme, Adrian Clayborn, and O'Brien Schofield provided decent options at positions that were sorely lacking in 2014 (tight end, edge rusher). Inability to land an impact player and Dimitroff's questionable thought process continued into 2015 Not acquiring a true difference-maker ultimately doomed Atlanta. On a defense sorely lacking playmakers, you can't rely on the draft for immediate success. Dan Quinn will take some responsibility based on having final control of the roster. Dimitroff still falls at the forefront by not luring in a player like Derrick Morgan. Despite being offered a five-year deal, the former first round pick opted to re-sign with Tennessee, meaning the Falcons couldn't rebuild a perenially rebuilding organization.When circumstances couldn't get grimmer, they reportedly offered backup tight end Lance Kendricks a lucrative contract. The official offer was never reported, but Kendricks ended up taking a slightly reduced offer at four years, $18.5 million to remain with St. Louis. They were prepared to spend heavily on a tight end that never caught more than 42 passes nor eclipsed over 550 receiving yards in a season. Following a disappointing 6-10 season, there needs to be more than just "decent signings." You have to question Dimitroff's thought process with these signings. Pernell McPhee, Jabaal Sheard, and Brandon Graham were highly rated free agents entering their prime. Instead of trying to sign any of these particular pass rushers; they were interested in oft-injured Brian Orakpo. A rebuilding defense shouldn't break the bank on a 30-year old edge rusher that has endured multiple season-ending injuries. Eventually, they backed off signing Orakpo and ended up making a far lesser deal for another injury-prone pass rusher in Clayborn. The past two off-seasons have left everyone wanting more. Dimitroff's shoddy resume goes beyond the damaging off-seasons. While signing Ray Edwards initially seemed like a perfect move, the well-acclaimed model ended up being a product of Minnesota's outstanding defensive line. It took four off-seasons to properly replace Harvey Dahl, as Garrett Reynolds was consistently bullied at right guard. Signing Umenyiora over Dwight Freeney was another head-shaking move. Does releasing Abraham for cap reasons also count as a poor decision? When a player carries your pass-rush for six seasons and produces eleven-and-half sacks for another team at 35 years old, it should absolutely be considered as a horrible decision. Things can only improve going into 2016 You could harp on Dimitroff's free agent mistakes for days, but with Quinn having more control, personnel errors should be reduced. He stated that both lines will be improved, which is a must. Middle linebacker, guard, and strong safety would be the best options to address at the draft. They desperately need to get younger and better at those respective positions. Free agency won't provide many quality guards, safeties or middle linebackers either. Paul Worrilow isn't a starting caliber middle linebacker; while Andy Levitre led the team in penalties and struggled in pass protection. William Moore will likely be another cap casualty as well. With a much difficult schedule next season featuring several west coast trips, this offseason will be extremely important. A new stadium is looming in 2017 and owner Arthur Blank clearly wants them to become a contender. While Dimitroff hasn't proven capable of putting a playoff-caliber team on the field over the past two seasons, he has two wise colleagues in Quinn and Scott Pioli to oversee moves. Quinn has been open about his positive relationship with Dimitroff. That won't matter if another January goes by without the Falcons preparing for a big game. Matt Ryan isn't getting younger, while Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are ready to be productive for several years to come. It's time to continue building stars on defense, solidarity on offensive line, and developing new playmakers for Ryan, and reversing bad free agent trends. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2016/1/11/10742716/a-more-strategic-free-agency-approach-will-be-needed-for-thomas
  11. Jalen Collins could be the difference between a good Falcons secondary and a great oneBy Dave Choate @TheFalcoholic on Jun 11, 2015 Jalen Collins was selected in the second round because the Falcons believed the rangy cornerback could be a real asset in Dan Quinn's defense. I'd have to agree with that assessment, but the real question is how soon that impact might come. Collins is making his way back from injury, which puts him at a slight disadvantage as a rookie trying to steal a role away from veterans like Robert Alford and Phillip Adams. When you throw Dezmen Southward in the mix and consider rookie seventh rounder Akeem King, there's a ton of competition at cornerback, and Collins is going to need the time to get up to speed. It's the one reason I'm wary of projecting a big year from him, despite his obvious talent. Simply put, Collins could very well mean the difference between a good Falcons secondary—Desmond Trufant and William Moore should at least ensure that level of competence—and a terrific one. Putting Trufant and an athletic scheme fit like Collins outside would let the Falcons kick Alford into the nickel, where his athleticism and ballhawking skills should play extremely well in Quinn's defense. That would leave the solid but unspectacular Phillip Adams, second-year conversion project Dezmen Southward and rookie Akeem King fighting for what scraps remain. For 2015, at least, that's the strongest possible configuration for this secondary. That's why I'm hoping Collins can get back on the field and show he belongs there sooner rather than later. Even with a likely improved pass rush, this Falcons team is going to struggle to field a truly great defense this season. Collins is one of those pieces that they'll need to get anywhere close. What's your expectation for Collins in 2015? http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2015/6/11/8742147/jalen-collins-could-be-the-difference-between-a-good-falcons
  12. 2015 NFL draft: Atlanta Falcons CB Kevin White among best UDFA signees By James Rael on May 6, 2015, 10:54p Atlanta Falcons cornerback Kevin White isn't your average undrafted free agent. He's a talented defensive back that wasn't selected in the NFL draft because he's small (5'9 and 183 pounds) and slow (4.63 40 yard dash at the Combine). But remember, the league is full of guys like White. Over 30 percent of NFL rosters are comprised of UDFAs. And according to Pro Football Focus, as UDFAs go, White could be special. The second of our trio of undrafted cornerbacks, White grabbed our attention with a solid performance against West Virginia’s wide receiver of the same name. The second wide receiver of the board in this year’s draft could only muster one reception for eight yards from the seven passes thrown to him in White’s coverage. On the season, he allowed a quarterback rating of 66.3 on throws into his coverage, coming away with seven pass breakups and three interceptions. What Pro Football Focus doesn't reference are his passes defended, of which White had 13 in 2014. White has a reputation for making up ground quickly and remaining composed, even when it appears he's beat. He is tenacious on the field, and you'd be hard pressed to find a more competitive guy. While not a complete match, he does remind me of another UDFA cornerback the Falcons plucked out of obscurity: Brent Omar Grimes. Not because he's particularly athletic; simply because he doesn't let his size dictate his on-the-field results. Unlike Grimes, White was projected as a fourth or fifth round draft pick. It seems teams simply couldn't overlook his lack of impressive measurables. Look, I fully understand White's status. I fully understand he's a rookie UDFA who hasn't played a single NFL snap. But notwithstanding those labels, the kid may surprise all of us. By "surprise all of us," I don't mean to suggest he will become a perennial Pro Bowl candidate. If he can capably develop into the team's 4th cornerback, it's still one heck of a signing. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2015/5/6/8559343/2015-nfl-draft-atlanta-falcons-cb-kevin-white-among-best-udfa-signees
  13. An evaluation of Thomas Dimitroff's draft history: The 2009 Draft By Allen Strk The evaluation of Thomas Dimitroff's draft history continues through the 2009 season. After a terrific 11-5 season in 2008, expectations were high in Atlanta. Dimitroff was dubbed a "mastermind" for putting the pieces together for a franchise that was in disarray through the 2007 season. Matt Ryan was blossoming into a franchise quarterback, while Michael Turner was putting linebackers on their back. A positive vibe was back in Atlanta, but work had to be done. The defense was ranked 21st against the pass and 25th against the run. Upgrades were needed for this franchise to take the next step. Defensive tackle, cornerback, and strong safety were necessities going into the draft. How did the newest savior in Atlanta do in his first draft without being supplied a boatload of picks? A tally will be formulated into two parts. Between the first four rounds, Dimitroff will be graded on picks that were either considered as satisfying or ultimately letdowns. From rounds five to seven, the grades will be determined by either significant or insignificant, since those rounds are hard to truly rate as letdowns. If you need an actual reference, here is my 2008 evaluation. Peria Jerry- 1st round (Overall pick: 24th) The biggest first round blunder during Dimitroff's regime for now. Thankfully for his sake, Jerry wasn't a top ten pick and Atlanta already had an outstanding defensive tackle in Jonathan Babineaux. Some may wonder about Jerry's potential if he didn't suffer a season-ending knee injury in his rookie season. Was all of his explosiveness taken away from that injury? One of his main attributes coming out of Ole Miss was how disruptive he was through his sheer power and athleticism. That was never the case in Atlanta, as he was pushed around constantly. Corey Peters unseated him as a starter in a matter of weeks in 2010. Jerry was nonexistent as a pass rusher and failed to become a difference maker as a run stuffer. Some may reference Clay Matthews as a major miss on Dimitroff's part, which is a harsh critique. Matthews would have never fit in the 4-3 scheme, and Atlanta had a glaring hole opposite Babineaux following Grady Jackson's departure. Vontae Davis would have been a more viable choice, as they needed a cornerback as well. Davis has developed into one of the best cover corners in the league. That would have saved Dimitroff from spending a significant amount on Dunta Robinson. (Letdown) William Moore- 2nd round (Overall pick: 55th) An absolute gem of a pick. With Lawyer Milloy on the decline, strong safety was a position that needed to be addressed. Despite missing his rookie season with a hamstring injury, Moore turned into the enforcer that this defense sorely needed. His knack of forcing turnovers has proven to be so valuable for a defense that was always referred to as a "bend, but don't break" defense. The Missouri standout also has a knack for shining in the biggest primetime games. In Atlanta's victories over Denver and New Orleans in 2012, the defense forced Peyton Manning and Drew Brees into a combined eight interceptions. Moore had three of those interceptions, along with making plays all over the field. His one-on-one tackle of Michael Robinson on fourth-and-one in the playoff win over Seattle was memorable. An extended pamphlet can be constructed in listing all of Moore's impact plays. Injuries have plagued his career to an extent, along with playing too violent at times, which has led to penalties. In the end, this was arguably Dimitroff's most valuable pick outside of the first round. Moore has proven to be a true leader on a defense that has sorely needed it over the past few seasons. (Satisfied) Christopher Owens- 3rd round (Overall pick: 90th) The group of cornerbacks in Atlanta lacked size following the wise decision to not re-sign Domonique Foxworth. Chevis Jackson and Brent Grimes were undersized, while Chris Houston wasn't developing into the number one corner that he was positioned to be. Owens ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage was supposed to give the secondary much-needed physicality. Unfortunately, his lack of speed hindered his development. The emergence of Grimes also contributed towards Owens never being a starter. It can't be forgotten that Grimes was injured for a few weeks in 2011, yet Dominique Franks was thrust into a starting role over him. Owens also lacked versatility, which was evident in Atlanta's one-sided playoff loss against Green Bay. He was forced into being the primary nickel corner following Brian Williams' left knee injury that led to Greg Jennings abusing him on several occasions. Fans still have nightmares over him being out of position constantly like an un-drafted rookie. Owens never developed into a staring-caliber cornerback and wasn't re-signed after the 2012 season. Keenan Lewis was selected six picks later by the Steelers, which stings even more from this clear miss in the third round. (Letdown) Lawrence Sidbury- 4th round (Overall pick: 125th) Upside always comes to mind when seeing Sidbury's name. With Jamaal Anderson not developing into any threat as a pass rusher, John Abraham needed support. Sidbury had an explosive first step that was constantly raved about from coaches and analysts. He never had the body to be a true three-down lineman though. Besides injuries, the lack of size appeared to be his undoing. Sidbury still remains to be an absolute mystery. His most productive season was in 2011, where he outplayed Ray Edwards and Kroy Biermann from a pass rusher standpoint. His above-average speed had suited him best as a true situational pass-rusher. After showing promise with four sacks in 2011, Sidbury failed to play much in 2012 and was left on the sidelines for no particular reason. The coaching staff never seemed fully behind the former Richmond standout, which led to him signing with Indianapolis in 2013. His exit wasn't brought with any gratitude, as Sidbury was vocal about not wanting to re-sign through his agent. This was the first of many failed picks in addressing the lack of support for Abraham in attempting to produce a consistent pass rush. (Letdown) William Middleton- 5th round (Overall pick: 138th) Middleton never played a game for the Falcons, which is rare for a fifth round pick. It was another one of those strange picks, where Dimitroff preferred a smaller cornerback on a team that already had several of those particular players. In the end, he never made the team and ended up playing in Jacksonville for four seasons. Middleton ended up having a decent stint there, but never amounted into being a reliable starter. (Insignificant) Garrett Reynolds- 5th round (Overall pick: 156th) It's easy to criticize Reynolds as an absolute liability for three seasons as the starting right guard. It's still puzzling as to why the coaching staff never gave him a true opportunity to play right tackle. That was always his natural position at North Carolina. Tyson Clabo was an above average right tackle from 2008-2012, but they eventually released him in 2013. Why couldn't they give Reynolds an opportunity to compete with Lamar Holmes for the right tackle opening in 2013? A six foot seven offensive lineman succeeding as a guard was always highly unlikely. Through watching him struggle as a run blocker, it was always noticeable on how he couldn't play at a low base. You rarely saw him get a good push, due to his large stature and inability to drive opposing lineman backwards. Reynolds was benched in 2011 and 2013 within the middle of the season. In 2012, he was average at best before suffering a season-ending injury. While it's evident that Reynolds never panned out to be an efficient lineman, the coaching staff should be questioned in continuously trying to implement him into playing right guard. If only they re-signed Harvey Dahl, this pick may have been salvaged. Reynolds as a swing tackle could have possibly worked. (Insignificant) Spencer Adkins- 6th round (Overall pick: 176th) Another defensive pick that didn't pan out in Atlanta. Adkins was supposed to be an excellent special teams player, but never made his mark there. These picks tend to happen, where a player simply can't move up the depth chart following a disappointing training camp and pre-season. Adkins seemed better suited as a middle linebacker, yet Dimitroff must have felt that he could play on the weak-side or strong-side with Curtis Lofton playing in the middle. That intention didn't translate into anything substantial, as Adkins wasn't re-signed in 2012. He couldn't make it past training camp for the Ravens and Giants. (Insignificant) Vance Walker- 7th round (Overall pick: 210th) One of the bigger fan favorites from 2010-2012, Walker proved to be a solid rotational player when Babineaux or Peters needed a rest. His ability as a run stuffer and possessing an underrated first step have propelled him towards a successful NFL career. It was strange to see Atlanta not re-sign him in 2013, after a three-sack season in limited opportunities. That seemed to start controversy amongst the fan-base, where questions arose about Dimitroff's favoritism towards higher drafted players. How did Jerry merit a roster spot, when Walker outplayed him for two consecutive seasons? Who wouldn't prefer to have Walker in a rotational role over Tyson Jackson? Some highlights that stood out from his career in Atlanta was his sack against New Orleans that showcased his explosiveness. After being stood up at first, Walker blew past Jahri Evans and viciously sacked Brees (who couldn't help himself to complain about being hit). It was the only defensive highlight from that night, as Brees broke the single-season passing yardage record in a dominant win for New Orleans. Walker also had a key sack against Seattle in Atlanta's playoff win, where he was one of the few defensive lineman to touch Russell Wilson in one of the worst defensive collapses in recent history. He was never going to be a star, but you can always depend on his high motor on a weekly basis. For having two productive seasons in a rotational role, Dimitroff gets praise for the pick itself. As for not re-signing him, that decision never quite made sense. (Significant) Final Tally This will always be remembered as one of Dimitroff's worst drafts. Only one player had a satisfying career in Atlanta between rounds one and four. It has to be frustrating that two of those letdown picks were amongst the defensive line, which has been a problem for years. For the second draft in a row, Dimitroff did land one significant player out of four picks in the final three rounds. It's essential to have a track record of selecting players in the later rounds that amounted into becoming positive contributors. The tally from the past two drafts show that Dimitroff has selected four players that had satisfying careers and six players that were letdowns in Atlanta between rounds one and four. In the final three rounds, two out of nine players turned out to be a significant surprise in becoming solid contributors. If you want to look at the two drafts from a full perspective, six out of nineteen players have turned out to be positive picks. That's a fairly decent margin, although Dimitroff had several picks to work with in 2008. In his first attempt at having the standard amount of draft picks, it wasn't a very good showing that contributed towards Atlanta going only 9-7 that season. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2015/4/6/8342585/an-evaluation-of-thomas-dimitroffs-draft-history-the-2009-draft?_ga=1.81907158.1981302654.1395031160
  14. An evaluation of Thomas Dimitroff's draft history: The 2008 Draft By Allen Strk With the NFL draft being a month away, the time feels right to evaluate Thomas Dimitroff. Whether it's in the comment sections, forums, or Twitter, their always seems to be a debate about Dimitroff's ability to draft efficiently and effectively. We already know that his decisions in free agency haven't been glamorous over the past three off-seasons. Instead of dwelling over those poor decisions, it's better to do something more productive. This is the start of a five-part series of evaluating the Falcons' draft classes from 2008 to 2012. Most people would agree that it takes three years to effectively rate a draft pick. The "third-year breakout potential" term is more than just a catchy phrase. Roddy White can attest to that. That's why I'm going to leave out 2013 and 2014, as those particular players are still developing. This all began in 2008, when a new face of the franchise was needed. A new face was acquired, along with several other players earning memorable reputations in Atlanta for better and for worse. A tally will be formulated into two parts. Between the first four rounds, Dimitroff will be graded on picks that were either considered as satisfying or ultimately letdowns. From rounds five to seven, the grades will be determined by either significant or insignificant, since those rounds are hard to truly rate as letdowns. Matt Ryan- 1st round (Overall pick: 3rd) What's there left to say about the face of the franchise? After much debate about whether to choose Ryan or Glenn Dorsey, Dimitroff decided to choose the quarterback out of Boston College. That turned out to be the best decision throughout his current regime, as Ryan brought stability to a franchise that was only one year removed from the Michael Vick debacle. The stats speak for itself, as Ryan's resume is astonishing from 2010-2014. After being a firm believer in choosing Dorsey and drafting Brian Brohm in the second round, I'm proud to admit my idiocy and praise Dimitroff for this monumental decision. (Satisfied) Sam Baker- 1st round (Overall pick: 21st) It's remarkable at how decision making can go from gold to horse manure in the same actual round. That's my best description in describing Dimitroff's decision to trade two second round picks and a fourth-round pick to Washington in order to move up to draft Baker. While one of those picks came from the DeAngelo Hall trade, it was still a questionable move to trade up in such a talent heavy left tackle class. Then you look at Duane Brown being selected five picks later by the Houston Texans, who turned out to be a stud. It was one of Dimitroff's biggest flops throughout his career on draft day. Baker was a question mark coming out of college, which has lead to several disappointing seasons that have been injury-plagued. Somehow he remains on the roster, due to his willingness to play left guard. (Letdown) Curtis Lofton- 2nd Round (Overall pick: 37th) A second-round pick is supposed to evolve into becoming a star or productive player at minimum. Brandon Flowers, Jordy Nelson, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, Calais Campbell, and Martellus Bennett all developed into becoming outstanding players from being second round picks in the 2008 NFL draft. Lofton developed into a solid two-down player that was an asset as a run-stopping middle linebacker. If you recall, the Falcons were actually a top-ten run defense in both 2010 and 2011. Lofton deserves credit for being one of the bigger assets amongst the front seven. In the end, the ideal middle linebacker is supposed to be a three-down player, especially when being drafted in the second round. Lofton was always a liability in coverage and tends to miss tackles in the open field. Atlanta and New Orleans have realized that over the course of his career. In the end, this can't be considered as a productive pick. (Letdown) Chevis Jackson- 3rd Round (Overall pick: 68th) Jackson's pick-six against Drew Brees in November of 2008 will always be memorable. He read the play perfectly and began high stepping at the thirty-yard line in what sealed a crucial win in the memorable 2008 season (sadly it was so long ago, I can't find the clip). Jackson showed promise throughout his rookie season from being a willing tackler to being effective as a nickel corner. Eventually his lack of speed was exposed and quarterbacks began targeting him in 2009. Both Jackson and Chris Houston faltered in what was one of the worst pass defenses in Falcons history during the 2009 season. The former LSU standout has been out of the league since 2010. Falcon fans will never forget that pick-six, especially since it came against the Saints. That being said, this is as easy one. (Letdown) Harry Douglas- 3rd Round (Overall pick: 84th) It will always be difficult to fully rate Douglas. On one hand, he proved to be a valuable role player that made several key catches at opportune times. On the other hand, his limitations were evident in not being much of a deep-threat or being able to make catches in traffic. We can all agree that Douglas was a positive pick that ended up being a valuable asset to have through 2008-2013. Eventually his limitations had become tiresome and that hindered the passing attack to an extent. In the end, Douglas was a solid player who shone in 2008 and 2011 when the team needed a second receiver besides White. He saved Ryan from having to throw to Tony Gonzalez and a group of undrafted receivers in 2013. While his departure was needed for more youth at the receiver position, Dimitroff deserves praise for selecting a consistent receiver that was productive for six seasons (Douglas didn't play in 2009, due to a torn ACL). (Satisfied) Thomas DeCoud- 3rd round (Overall pick: 98th) Another player that fans had such passionate mixed feelings on. While his shortcomings as a tackler became a weekly punch-line, DeCoud was a standout in coverage throughout his career in Atlanta. His 2012 season was well-deserving of a Pro Bowl selection. His six interceptions and nine passes defensed were made through several incredible individual efforts. Many forget about his productive 2009 season, which was his first season as a starter at free safety. If it wasn't for his "stone hands" (another weekly punch-line through the early part of his career), DeCoud could have had six instead of just three interceptions. His exit from Atlanta was brought with great joy. That doesn't take away from his four seasons of being a solid starter, along with one outstanding season. His range was valuable through the magical 2012 season, when Atlanta had some semblance of a pass rush with John Abraham. (Satisfied) Robert James- 5th round (Overall pick: 138th) The perennial name that you would see on the Falcons inactive list from 2008 to 2011. James was a strange figure in this draft because nobody quite remembers him. James was notable for being suspended for PED usage in 2010 and briefly played special teams. Injuries did plague his career to an extent. In the end, it's fair to say that he was simply wasn't good enough. After being released on multiple occasions, the Falcons were finally done with him by cutting him in the summer of 2013. Brandon Carr was selected two picks later by the Kansas City Chiefs to add more sting to this missed pick. (Insignificant) Kroy Biermann- 5th round (Overall Pick: 154th) The last of the almighty trio of players that have left fans conflicted. Biermann flashed great promise in his first two seasons as a situational pass-rusher. His promise led to being promoted towards a starting role in 2010, which ended up being a disappointment. Biermann only had three sacks and faded in several games, as Abraham never had the support that he deserved. That forced Dimitroff towards investing in a pass-rusher through free agency, which ended up becoming Ray Edwards in another dismal decision. Biermann should have always been a situational player, as he's never possessed the speed or strength to be effective as a three-down lineman. Somehow he became a three-down lineman last season, after failing to succeed in that role in 2010. Biermann garnered a lot of criticism for his play over the past season. The criticism should have been directed towards the entire organization for putting him in a position to fail. At his best, Biermann is an versatile role player that can multiple positions and has a relentless motor. As a fifth round pick, this pick deserves praise for choosing a productive player when utilized properly. The former Montana standout was one of the unsung heroes in the memorable 2012 season as well. (Significant) Thomas Brown- 6th round (Overall pick: 173rd) To the fellow Georgia Bulldog fans that constantly read this website, don't chastise me for having to do extensive research on this player's identity. Brown lasted one season in Atlanta and failed to feature in any games. While I'm unsure of his popularity in Georgia, there was some buzz about him being a potential key role player. That seems to apply with almost every player from Georgia drafted by the Falcons besides Akeem Dent. Brown hasn't played since 2010 and has now moved into a career in coaching. (Insignificant) Wilrey Fontenot- 7th round (Overall pick: 212th) Another player that failed to make an impact in his short tenure in Atlanta. His career didn't lead too much, as Fontenot was out of the league by 2009. The lack of height (five-foot-ten) seemed to derail his career, along with his inability to tackle effectively. (Insignificant) Keith Zinger- 7th round (Overall pick: 232nd) Zinger was drafted one pick before Justin Forsett, who ironically was a player that the Falcons were interested in last month. Zinger's background in playing for the 2008 national champion LSU Tigers makes him more recognizable than the other two players above. Zinger never caught a pass in the NFL and was out of the league by 2011. (Insignificant) The final tally shows that Dimitroff selected three players that had a satisfying career, while three players were considered letdowns through the first four rounds. A fifty percent rate is a solid number for the (at the time) first year general manager. Only one out of five players was considered as a significant pick through the final three rounds. It was an overall productive draft in acquiring a franchise quarterback and solid players on both sides of the field. The failure in selecting a reliable left tackle and a complete middle linebacker derails this draft class to an extent. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2015/4/2/8320013/an-evaluation-of-thomas-dimitroffs-draft-history-the-2008-draft?_ga=1.81907158.1981302654.1395031160
  15. An evaluation of Thomas Dimitroff's draft history: The 2011 Draft By Allen Strk It was an exciting, yet strange time for the Atlanta Falcons. They surprised the league by going 13-3 in 2010 through ball control and forcing turnovers. While their future looked bright, one dark image loomed across Atlanta. It wasn't the lockout that the entire league was enduring from March 12th to July 25th, either. The embarrassing playoff defeat to the Green Bay Packers wasn't going to be forgotten so easily. For the first time since 2005, the Georgia Dome had hosted hosted a playoff game, and it ended poorly. Atlanta's lack of playmakers was exposed during the loss to Green Bay. Everyone knew that the Falcons defense was average at best, but it was the lack of explosive play-makers that made them beatable, if you can build a sizable lead. On a national stage, Matt Ryan couldn't throw the ball downfield in attempting to come back from a three-score deficit. Another wide receiver was needed, as Michael Jenkins was expendable and Harry Douglas was never going to develop into a capable starter. A game-changing playmaker was needed to relive the pressure off the running game. With the twenty-seventh pick, it was going to be difficult to find an immediate game changer. The pressure was on, as the 2010 NFL Executive of the Year took a massive gamble to fulfill this need, as we're about to cover. You can view my draft evaluations here in 2008, 2009, and 2010. A tally will be formulated into two parts. Between the first four rounds, Dimitroff will be graded on picks that were either considered as satisfying or ultimately letdowns. From rounds five to seven, the grades will be determined by either significant or insignificant, since those rounds are hard to truly rate as letdowns. Julio Jones- 1st round (Overall pick: 6th) What is there left to say about Jones? As is the case with Matt Ryan, all you have to do is look at his resume to recognize greatness. Without him, the offense diminishes greatly into being a "dink-and-dunk" passing attack. His ability as a vertical receiver is arguably his greatest attribute, and he has many. While trading away four picks for any player isn't the most ideal strategy in building a contender, Jones has been sensational. Nobody can argue with his production and impact for a team that was in dire need of a game-changer offensively. Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White were all starting to move past the prime of their respective careers. A new star was needed and the Falcons couldn't have made a bigger splash than they did. (Satisfied) Akeem Dent- 3rd round (Overall pick: 91st) Another eyebrow raising third-round pick that continued the yearly tradition. After selecting Corey Peters in 2010, the selection of Dent brought disappointment to the fanbase. Unlike Peters, Dent never gained the fans' approval. The former Georgia Bulldog was always considered to be a hard worker that excelled as a run defender. His lack of versatility in coverage made him a puzzling pick in the third round. Some websites even viewed him as a late-round pick at best. With Mike Nolan implementing a more hybrid defense, it was odd to see a thumper like Dent become a three-down player in 2013. Stephen Nicholas was always a liability in coverage. Why would they rely on a player that never had good range as a middle linebacker? Similar to Curtis Lofton, Dent seemed destined to be effective as a two-down linebacker. Lofton wasn't re-signed for being strictly a two-down linebacker. Why they viewed Dent as an upgrade over Lofton is beyond me. Lofa Tatupu was brought in as competition for the 2012 season, but it was evident that the coaching staff wanted Dent to win the job. After being benched in early 2013, Dent never recovered and Paul Worrilow took over the reigns at middle linebacker. He was traded to Houston for backup quarterback T.J Yates, which proves how minimal his value was in Atlanta. This was arguably Dimitroff's worst third-round pick. (Letdown) Jacquizz Rodgers- 5th round (Overall pick: 145th) The dynamic running back out of Oregon State was an immediate hit. While some fans may not rate him highly, it's easy to forget that Rodgers was a fifth round pick. All of the talk about him ascending over Michael Turner in 2012 was silly. His limitations were evident, from not having breakaway speed to being unable to run efficiently between the tackles. Unrealistic expectations seemed to derail his stock, at least with fans. What Rodgers should be remembered for was being dependable when called upon. Whether it was a key blitz pickup or a jaw-dropping move to make a tackler miss, big moments in big games was his calling card. This was easily Dimitroff's best fifth round pick for now. Nobody in Atlanta embodied the essence of a being an effective role player quite like Rodgers. Don't let old unrealistic expectations of him becoming the next Ray Rice (on the field) hinder your appreciation for him. As a fifth round pick, what an absolute bargain for a player of his caliber. Rodgers will always be a solid role player that is capable of an unbelievable individual effort. That is something that the best safety in the league can agree on. (Significant) Matt Bosher- 6th round (Overall pick: 192nd) It's rare to see a punter actually selected in the NFL draft. We'll never know the meaning behind this pick by Dimitroff. Michael Koenen wasn't re-signed, so the position was an actual need. Bosher has ended up becoming one of the better punters in the league. Since 2012, the former Miami Hurricane has averaged more than 45 yards per punt. His willingness to tackle opposing returners has made him a fan favorite. Although I'm hoping Matt Bryant's future replacement doesn't get drafted (or Bryant doesn't ever retire), this pick does show rare value in drafting a special teams player. His development into a quality punter makes this a solid selection. (Significant) Andrew Jackson- 7th round (Overall pick: 210th) There have been more than a few obscure picks under Dimitroff's tenure. Players like William Middleton and Keith Zinger come to mind. Those players did have information written about them from college. Despite playing for Fresno State, Jackson was virtually anonymous as a player. His career didn't translate into anything notable. Atlanta cut him in 2012 after one season. The same fate occurred in Buffalo, as Jackson was cut after one season. That move essentially ended his NFL career. (Insignificant) Cliff Matthews- 7th round (Overall pick: 230th) In a draft class featuring many excellent pass-rushing prospects, Atlanta waited until the seventh round to select a pass-rusher. My fellow co-host Aaron Freeman of the Falcfans podcast has always criticized Dimitroff for waiting until the seventh round. It was a strange move, despite the need for another option alongside John Abraham. It makes the selection of Dent even more odd from that perspective. Matthews has ended up becoming a decent role player. While the former Gamecock is on the list of pass rushers that failed to make an impact in Atlanta, his versatility tends to go unnoticed. His ability to play special teams has kept him on the roster. It's commendable to stay on an NFL roster for four seasons as a seventh round pick. That isn't enough to be considered as a significant pick though. Matthews hasn't had anywhere close to the impact that Vance Walker had. One decent game against a weak Arizona Cardinals offensive line doesn't change that. (Insignificant) Final Tally Due to the blockbuster trade, only two draft picks were in Atlanta's disposal through the first four rounds. It's pretty self explanatory that Jones couldn't have been a better pick, while Dent couldn't have been a worse pick. Dimitroff fared well in the final three rounds by selecting two out of four players that became solid contributors. The tally from 2008 to 2011 shows that Dimitroff has done a solid job within the first four rounds. He has selected eight players that have ended up having productive careers in Atlanta. The same number applies for players that were considered as letdowns. A fifty percent rate still stands, as it was through the 2008-2010 draft. In the final three rounds, four out of sixteen players have ended up becoming solid contributors for Atlanta. If you want to look at the four drafts holistically, twelve out of thirty-two players have ended up becoming positive picks. This is the most difficult draft to evaluate given the circumstances. Four draft picks were traded in order to select Jones, which will always be labeled as overly excessive. A wide receiver's value will never reach the level of trading away four draft picks, and not even a player like Jones, Calvin Johnson, or Dez Bryant can change that. How many playoff wins do their respective teams have over the past four seasons? Dallas and Atlanta each have one win, while Detroit has none. Jones is a special player that deserves to be paid like an elite receiver. It's still hard to justify trading four picks, although Dent not being a flop would have helped this draft greatly. For Atlanta to have no second round pick and essentially receive nothing out of their third round selection hurts significantly. Rodgers and Bosher were excellent late round picks that salvaged this draft, at least to an extent. While selecting an explosive play maker fulfilled a major need, this move handicapped Atlanta's draft plans going into 2012 with no first round pick. The front office also learned that no explosive play maker can save a team against an overwhelming pass rush. A disappointing 10-6 season will mostly be remembered by a 24-2 playoff loss to the New York Giants (as a fellow New Yorker, my heart and bank account does). The emphasis on becoming "tougher" and upgrading the offensive line were priorities going into the 2012 off-season. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2015/4/20/8429673/falcons-2011-draft-thomas-dimitroff-evaluation
  16. Matt Ryan Ranks as PFF's 5th Best Quarterback, Is Therefore Elite By FalconsM5  @FalconsM5 on Nov 19 2014, 12:00p Despite no tight end, a poor offensive line, wide receivers struggling to both separate and catch, a 31 year-old starting running back, and Dirk Koetter "coordinating" the offense, Matt Ryan is graded really well by Pro Football Focus. Really, really good. Ryan ranks fifth overall, and has a pretty commanding lead over the 6th spot. Lets take a look at some of Matt Ryan's eliteness. Pro Football Focus Top Quarterbacks PFF has given Ryan a 18.6 grade through the season, only a few points lower than Tom Brady (elite) and Drew Brees (elite). Despite taking 20 sacks, having 25 dropped passes, nine throw aways, and being hit during five passes, Ryan has elited nearly 2,800 yards, completing 65.5% of his passes for 7.3 yards per attempt. For a bit of color, the team is 3rd highest in the league in dropped passes, tied for 7th highest in number of QB hits allowed during a pass, and tied for 12th in most sacks. Imagine Ryan if he got average help... let alone good help. Ryan ranks well ahead of Tony Romo (not elite), Andy Dalton (not elite), Joe Flacco(not elite), and Matt Stafford (not elite). Ryan does not always get the respect he deserves, after he has been shackled with the league's worst defense, a starting running back that has only mustered 3.6 YPC, and a offensive coordinator who loves the same wide receiver screen formation but hates end zone fades to anyone over 5-foot-6. He has faults but gets so very little help from the rest of the team. It really looks like no quarterback does more with less than Ryan. Discuss Matt Ryan's eliteness. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2014/11/19/7244315/matt-ryan-ranks-is-pffs-5th-best-quarterback-is-therefore-elite
  17. Falcons DC Mike Nolan Is Forgetting To Play His Best Players The Falcons have made a lot of confusing decisions this year, starting with failing to reward good play with more on-field snaps. At the top of my list of confusing lineup decisions would be Antone Smith, Prince Shembo, and Jonathan Massaquoi continuing to get frustratingly insufficient playing time. All three have easily outperformed the starters for their positions, but seem to be fighting an uphill battle for snaps. In fact, a lot of these lineup decisions are so confusing they may as well have been made by Lovie Smith. You know two guys who will not turn into great players? Steven Jackson and Kroy Biermann. Guess who has had the most snaps of their position? Jackson and Biermann. This team makes me feel .Is the team tanking? Is the coaching staff uncompromisingly stubborn with their lineups? Have these players followed Bryan Cox's daughter on Instagram? Or is Mike Nolan just forgetting to get our most effective players playing time? That sounds like exactly what happened, when Nolan explained to ESPN's Vaughn McClure why Massaquoi was only a part-time player against the Detroit Lions. "Not by design; more by mistake, if that's the case," Nolan said of Massaquoi's snaps going down. "Mass has done a good job so far. He's been active. You know, we have a lot of things we're working on in trying to get better. "It's unfortunate that he got fewer, but he didn't have so few that he didn't play. I mean, he might have been 10 less than what he expected. He probably got [37] snaps, I think, in the last game. It would have been nice to for him to get 40s, but that's not a huge thing. I think more was made of the number of snaps than really is ... we would have liked to have had a few more. But that wasn't the reason we lost the game at the end, for example."Your 2014 Atlanta Falcons. Forgetting to get their best players snaps. Refusing to play their young talent. Then believing bad decisions on the defense did not lose the game after they gave up 22 points in one half to a team missing their best offensive players. Why is this team struggling? For one, Biermann, 0 sacks, has played nearly 75% of the defensive snaps this season, with Massaquoi, 2 sacks, earning his way to nearly 45% of the defensive snaps. At least part of this problem is the mastermind behind the 32nd best defense in yards allowed per game forgets to play his best players. http://www.thefalcoh...is-best-players
  18. Fixing The Falcons Is Not A Three Step Process, But What The ****, We'll Try By Dave Choate @TheFalcoholic on Oct 2 2014, 7:00p None of us can help weighing in on what needs to be done to fix the Atlanta Falcons, especially in the wake of this week's ugly injury news. I'm no exception. When we talk about fixing this team, we don't mean turning them into one of the NFL's elite teams overnight. There are real limitations to the defensive talent here, and injuries have sapped the Falcons of some of their offensive power. A fix would be defined as something that makes the Falcons competitive enough to win football games, particularly on the road, and keeps them in the playoff hunt right up until the bitter end despite the very real challenges facing the team. Right now, playing like the Falcons played last Sunday against the Vikings, they're not going to be there, but there's still plenty of time to make adjustments. It's worth emphasizing that injuries might be the tipping point for this team, and if the offensive line struggles mightily without Hawley and Holmes, nothing I say here is going to change that fact. All the Falcons can do is try to mitigate their issues and injuries now, but there are at least three glaringly obvious moves to be made. With that in mind, here's three steps to fixing the 2014 Atlanta Falcons, followed by an extensive note that explains why bigger fixes will have to wait. Keep the passing game healthy through quick hitters. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but with those offensive line injuries, Matt Ryan isn't going to have the luxury of sitting back in the pocket and picking his spots like he has at times this season. The ground game has been stronger than the last two seasons but isn't going to carry the team, so a lot will fall on the shoulders of Ryan and the receivers. The Falcons had some success on screens, quick outs and even the rare backfield swing pass at times this season, and while I don't want them to abandon the deep ball under any circumstances, the best way to ensure the offense keeps humming and keep Ryan out of danger is by utilizing the team's fast, strong weapons from Antone Smith to Devin Hester. It works so well against the Falcons that it has to work for them, right? Trust the secondary. This defense likes to work out of the nickel the majority of the time, which I understand and respect. The problem is that the nickel is not ideally suited to stopping the run, so the Falcons have attempted to address that by throwing multiple defensive tackle types on the line, which has stunted an already unproductive pass rush. The nickel packages this team is running have not done an especially good job at stopping the run or the pass thus far, with Minnesota simply being the most glaring example. What's the solution? Be willing to run more 4-3 and 3-4 looks up front and roll with four defensive backs. William Moore's absence hurts the defense in a big way, but the Falcons have some quality cornerbacks and Kemal Ishmael has shown flashes of promise. For all the lip service they gave about holding the run in check first and foremost to force opposing teams into unfavorable passing situations, the Falcons are really not delivering on that promise at all. Trust the secondary. Play your pass rushers and use them well. There's not a great pass rusher on this roster, which is a limiting factor. Again, though, we're not trying to create a great defense in the middle of the season. We're looking for competency. With that in mind, the Falcons need to get Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi more than 26 combined snaps. They need to see what a raw Ra'Shede Hageman can offer. They need to get their inside linebackers, particularly Prince Shembo, more involved in the pass rush in order to try to juice what they have. Putting a defensive end in a situation where he has to drop back and cover a wide receiver instead of chasing the quarterback is, usually, a terrible use of said defensive end. Ditto a linebacker who actually has pass rushing chops. I'm not saying play Jonathan Massaquoi for 100% of the defensive snaps. I'm saying give him the opportunity to rush the passer and give him more than 15% of your snaps to do so. What are we trying to accomplish here? We're trying to ameliorate the pass protection issues we're likely to see going forward, we're trying to overcome those matchups like the Giants game where the Falcons' top receivers will be matched up against talented cornerbacks, and we're attempting to take a putrid defense and make it look competent on a weekly basis. The last one's a hard sell, but there are tweaks that can drag the unit up from "arguably the second worst in the NFL" to "not completely lousy." All of this together could, if all works well, improve the defense enough to prevent so-so offenses dropping 30-plus points. It could keep the offense alive in the face of injured linemen and give guys like Julio Jones, Hester and Antone chances to break the big plays they're known for. It's a bandage for a team that needs organ transplants, but I'm reasonably confident doing these three things will keep the Falcons competitive. To find a true fix for this team's problems, we have to look ahead to next year. The only way to truly better this defense to somewhere north of mediocre is to acquire more talent, develop existing talent further and potentially re-tool the coaching staff and front office to ensure those goals are met. I knew going into this year that the pass rush was going to be weak, but the depths of the defensive ineptitude have come as a bit of a shock. I still don't think this is representative of what the Falcons can do, but it's likely representative of where the Falcons are going to sit for much of this season. Short of adding talent and the kind of development that typically doesn't happen all at once within a season, this just isn't a quality unit, and with some of the injuries the Falcons are dealing with, it's going to take some pretty Herculean efforts to make a playoff push this year. And, of course, the injuries are worrisome at best, and there's nothing to be done about them until 2015 except hope young guys step up in the absences of Willy Mo, Joe Hawley and others. While I'm still sitting on my 9-7 prediction for now—go down with your ship, it's more admirable that way—I've made some measure of peace with the idea that this Falcons team may flounder in 2014. If that's what it takes to get tangible improvement from the squad, so be it. For now, we'll hope this team surprises us all, makes a few key adjustments and makes this article look foolish in short order. What say you? http://www.thefalcoh...five-easy-steps
  19. Should ILB Paul Worrilow Be Benched? By FalconsM5 @FalconsM5 on Sep 30 2014, 12:00p Worrilow has been nearly free of criticism. The undrafted free agent seemed to be the only player who could tackle in 2013, working his way up to playing time and shining in a lost season. After adding weight, and calling the plays, the surprising player is at the top of the team's problems. Undrafted linebacker Paul Worrilow was one of the reasons Atlanta Falcons fans were optimistic coming into 2014. The undersized player added weight, quickly became a starter, and earned play calling duties. However, this season he has been a disaster. The middle of the field is consistently open, with the likes of Matt Asiata tearing up the defense. The team gives up the 5th most rushing yards in the league and is statistically the 2nd worst defense. For the first time ever, I am thankful for the Jacksonville Jaguars keeping us out of that last spot. This is not all Worrilow's fault. Mike Nolan has done nothing but force players into roles they are not built for, and Worrilow is among the misfits. It almost feels like Nolan is actively trying to get fired. While Nolan's list of poor decisions continues to grow, one thing that appears clear is that Worrilow is not a good fit for this defensive scheme. Not that I pretend to understand what exactly the defensive scheme is, other than crippling, deflating and infuriating. Having two big bodies along the defensive line like Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai should allow for an inside linebacker to produce. Instead, Worrilow has gotten trucked, struggled to get off of blocks, and is just washed out in the run game. Despite adding muscle in the offseason, he still lacks the physical play the team needs to slow down opposing offenses. After giving up over 200 yards of rushing to an undrafted free agent running back and a rookie, changes need to be made. Pro Football Focus has never been a big fan of Worrilow, but he already has the 2nd lowest run defense grade, after only Ra'Shede Hageman. While a bad run defense grade for, say, Robert Alford, is not anything too terrible, but an inside linebacker is problematic. Worrilow's biggest responsibility should be plugging the run, but he has been seriously struggling with that this season. In order for this defense to turn around, the Falcons need to cut back on the snaps of many players, and I think Worrilow should be one of them. The problem is the team has so few other options at inside linebacker. Joplo Bartu is potentially an even worse scheme fit and Nate Stupar has only been on the roster for about one month. Realistically, the Falcons need to change their scheme or get a new inside linebacker, from either off the street or through a trade, or other teams will be able to run all over this defense. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2014/9/30/6861327/should-ilb-paul-worrilow-be-benched
  20. Kroy Biermann: Time for a Change? By The DW @TheWalkerman on Sep 20 2014, 6:12p It doesn't take much to figure out when the backlash against Kroy Biermann started to gain momentum. During a short segment of Hard Knocks while talking to the linebackers coach, Atlanta fans saw Biermann admit that he didn't yet trust his surgically repaired achilles, which was injured early during the 2013 season. It seemed to be a moment where the flames were fueled a bit brighter and his performance since then has not inspired confidence. Local media has also been less than kind to Kroy, with some claiming that he's a coach favorite who is played in spite of his performance. Fans have latched onto the idea, with some even calling for the veteran to be cut outright. But is his performance really that poor, or is there more to the story? How 2014 is going so far For our purposes, we're going to use PFF numbers to make our evaluations. Let's take a look at how Kroy has been doing so far in 2014: Game Snaps Overall Grade Run Defense Pass Rush New Orleans 69/76 -1.6 +1.5 -2.3 Cincinatti 56/72 -3.6 -1.2 -0.6 Tampa Bay 39/60 -0.8 +0.8 -0.7 Totals 164 -6.0 +1.1 -3.6 If you're in the "get rid of Kroy" camp, these numbers probably don't surprise you. While he's been pretty good against the run, he's just not getting it done as a pass rusher. To that point, through 3 games, he's had 67 snaps as a pass rusher and has registered 0 sacks, 1 QB hit, and 4 QB hurries. By comparison, Jonathan Massaquoi and Stansly Maponga - through 3 games - have 46 snaps as pass rushers combined, with the majority of those coming in the Tampa Bay game. It should be noted that Kroy's total snaps have declined each game while Massaquoi and Maponga have gotten more each game. Additionally, while Maponga plays the same position as Kroy - LOLB - Massaquoi is primarily used as a ROLB, so his snaps aren't necessarily being impacted by Kroy. Performance from 2008 to 2013 Let's take a quick look at Kroy's performance over the years to see if there's a reason behind the coaching staff continuing to give him the majority of defensive snaps. Year Overall Run Defense Pass Rush 2008 +3.0 -1.4 +3.7 2009 +6.9 +1.5 +3.1 2010 +4.8 -1.8 +8.2 2011 -16.7 -10.1 -5.0 2012 -6.1 +3.5 -9.3 2013 +0.1 +2.3 -0.7 As you can see, at one point, Kroy graded out strongly as a pass rusher, while his run defense has been hit and miss. But in 2011, his scores dipped considerably. Whether it was due to the signing of Ray Edwards (*shudder*) or some other factor, it's pretty clear that Kroy hasn't been able to get after the QB very well since the 2011 season. But, these numbers also indicate that Kroy - at one point - was able to deliver. So, it's not unreasonable to think he might be able to do so again, but recent history suggests he's not done it a while - at least as a pass rusher. What are the options So, if Kroy isn't getting it done, what are the realistic options? Well, let's first acknowledge that Kroy has done well in run defense not only this year, but for the past couple of years. So, the idea that Kroy doesn't have anything to offer is simply not true. You can argue that he doesn't offer much as a pass rusher - and the recent stats back that up - but he does have value. But what of the pass rush? Well, for starters, guys like Massaquoi and Maponga should absolutely get more opportunities to go after the QB. Considering that both guys registered sacks against the Bucs, there's evidence that they have something to offer in that capacity. While neither is likely to be a major force as a pass rusher, if they can each contribute between 3-5 sacks, it will be something. So where does that leave us with Biermann? Well, for starters, he's a free agent after this season - so those hoping to see him no longer in a Falcons uniform may get their wish after this season. Secondly, he still offers something as a run defender, so unless there is an absolutely compelling upgrade to be found elsewhere, there's no reason to relegate him to the bench permanently - no matter what the talking heads may say. As discussed, the best option may be to take more of the pass rushing snaps and giving them to guys like Mass and Maponga, which may already be happening if the Bucs game is any indication. For those looking for us to bench Kroy or outright cut him, there's simply no reason to. While he may not have much to offer as a pass rusher, he still has a role to play in this defense. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2014/9/20/6662005/kroy-biermann-time-for-a-change
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