Russdogg Posted October 22, 2008 Share Posted October 22, 2008 Falcons Team ReportThe Falcons need to tighten up their pass defense.Over the last three games, the secondary has given up 286, 313 and 294 yards passing, respectively.Those are not good numbers as they are about to face three top notch passing quarterbacks - Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Denver’s Jay Cutler - in three of their next four games.“Our passing yardage is not where we’d like it to be, but it’s not necessarily totally attributed to the play of the secondary,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I think that often times people have snap judgments as to why certain things are happening. You have to always be cognizant of the linebackers’ play in pass defense as well as the defensive line.ADVERTISEMENT“We have to get the quarterback off the spot and we have to give the guys the opportunity back there.”The defensive line is lead by John Abraham, who has seven sacks. Defensive tackles Grady Jackson and Jonathan Babineaux and defensive end Jamaal Anderson have one sack apiece.If the front four can’t create enough pressure to help out the secondary, then the Falcons will have to consider using more blitzes and stunts.Rookie middle linebacker Curtis Lofton appears to be the classic run stuffer and has played better than expected laterally. He might be an option to explore on some blitzes.Keith Brooking’s numbers are down in his return to the weakside, and Michael Boley has not made the impact plays that were becoming his trademark although he did have the big interception against Green Bay.“I don’t think we’re still where we need to be as a unit,” Boley said. “But I think we are getting there. We’ve made some tremendous strides.”Notes, Quotes• SLB Michael Boley took the low-key approach over the bye week.“It was pretty good,” Boley said. “I just hung around the house and watched the Carolina and New Orleans game. I was just flip-flopping back and forth, seeing what was going on around the league.”The Falcons spent their bye week focusing on themselves. Along those same lines, Boley took some time to focus on his play over the first six games.“We were just taking this bye week to evaluate our mistakes and work on them,” Boley said.Last year, Boley had his best season since being selected in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. He set several career highs, including 125 tackles, 88 solo tackles and three forced fumbles.He’s started 47 of 56 games and continues to hold down the strongside linebacker position.“I don’t think I’ve played to where I want to be,” Boley said. “As the season goes on, I hope to get better and play better than what I’ve been doing in the earlier games.”Boley appears to be doing just fine. He has 37 tackles, four passes defensed and very huge fourth quarter interception that helped the Falcons pull off a victory at Green Bay.• WLB Keith Brooking has warned the younger players not to be satisfied with a good start to the season.“We’ve been 5-2, 6-2 a couple of times around here,” Brooking said. “In this league it’s about what have you done lately. We’re 4-2 and we earned that as a team.“But I think the bye week came at the right time.”• WR Laurent Robinson (knee) and reserve DT Jason Jefferson (high ankle sprain) returned to practice. Robinson has missed three games since injuring his knee against Kansas City on Sept. 21. Jefferson has been out with a high ankle sprain since the Carolina game on Sept. 28.“They’ve been progressing well,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “They practiced all last week. We’re anticipating getting those guys back out there.”Robinson could have some work to do to get his old job back. Rookie Harry Douglas came into his own in the slot receiver position against the Bears, catching five passes for 96 yards. He also made a key play on the kickoff return which set up the winning field goal, when he got down quickly to save enough time for Matt Ryan to complete one sideline route to Michael Jenkins.Douglas has 11 catches for 148 yards on the season. Robinson has five catches for 52 yards.• CB Brent Grimes suffered a bruised knee against the Bears but is confident he’ll return against the Eagles.“I just dove and landed on my knee,” Grimes said. “It’ll be OK. I’ll be practicing.”Grimes is from Philadelphia and played at Northeast High School.Strategy And PersonnelPLAYER NOTES• RB Michael Turner has 597 yards rushing this season, third in the NFL behind Clinton Portis and Adrian Peterson.• DE John Abraham is fifth in the league with seven sacks.• QB Matt Ryan has been sacked only seven times this season and has not been sacked in the last two games. He has an 82.9 passer rating.• CB Domonique Foxworth should get some action against the Eagles with Brent Grimes slowed with a bruised knee.• MLB Curtis Lofton has 39 tackles tops among all rookies.• WR Roddy White is on pace to catch 93 passes for 1,509 yards.• WR Harry Douglas is starting to exert himself in the slot and had a big 47-yard gainer against Chicago.REPORT CARD AFTER 6 GAMESPassing Offense: B-minus—Roddy White is proving that last season’s production was not a fluke. He’s close to moving into elite status in the league and is on pace to catch 93 passes for 1,509 yards. Collectively, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas and Brian Finneran should be able to keep White from seeing constant double-teams. Also, Laurent Robinson is coming back from injury. Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan is off to a fine start. He’s completing 57.8 percent of his passes. Ryan’s coming off his first 300-yard passing attack and was able to make some clutch throws when the Chicago Bears dared him to win the game. Ryan has to figure things out in the red zone when the field shrinks. The Falcons have thrown just two touchdown passes on 20 red zone trips.Rushing Offense: B-plus—RB Michael Turner has rushed for 597 yards through six games. His low to the ground running style has been quite effective. By running the ball with Turner and Jerious Norwood, the Falcons can bring Ryan along at the desired pace. Turner, in his first season as a full-time starter, doesn’t mind sharing some of the load with Norwood, who has 280 yards on 41 carries. FB Ovie Mughelli has been used as the lead blocker, and Jason Snelling has seen some action from scrimmage.Pass Defense: C-minus—The Falcons young cornerbacks have been tested weekly. Right cornerback Chris Houston is his second season while left cornerback Brent Grimes is in his first season as a full-time starter. Rookie Chevis Jackson is the nickel back. They have had their moments but are giving up too much yardage. Over the last three games, the Falcons have surrendered 294, 313 and 286 passing yards, respectively. The key against the Bears is that they didn’t allow a lot of explosive plays (20-yards or more). Domonique Foxworth, whom the Falcons acquired from Denver just six days before the start of the season, should get more action down the stretch.Rush Defense: B—DTs Grady Jackson and Johnathan Babineaux have been stout up the middle when playing the run. Their play has made it easier for rookie middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to slide and make plays on the ball. Lofton has made some big plays and come up strong against the run. Defensive end John Abraham is a disruptive force, and backups Kroy Biermann, Jason Jefferson, Chauncey Davis and Kindal Moorehead have been sturdy in reserve.Special Teams: A—Before missing a 33-yard field goal in the last game against Chicago before the bye week, place-kicker Jason Elam had a string of 30 consecutive field goals. He did come back to make the game-winner against Chicago. Punter Michael Koenen is averaging only 40.6 yards per punt, 32nd in the league. But because of his great hang-time, Koenen’s net average of 37.5 yards ranks 19th. The coverage units are playing strong and Jerious Norwood has broken some key kickoff returns. However, the punt return unit received close scrutiny over the bye week and may be changed.Coaching: A—The masterful handling or rookie quarterback Matt Ryan has the Falcons off to an improbable start. The Falcons coaches had to craft a plan that wouldn’t place too much of a burden on Ryan, so they decided to lean heavily on the running game early on. Now that Ryan has his feet wet, the Falcons can start adding more onto his plate. Over the bye week, the coaches paid close attention to the red zone offense, the punt return unit, and the defense’s ability to get off the field on third down.. Those areas have been red-flagged for improvement over the final 10 games. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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