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Tdwii's Pre-Game 1 Observations: Well, Here We Go!


TheDirtyWordII
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1) Big season for Ryan – we’re entering Year 7 of Ryan’s tenure in Atlanta. This is the first year of his $20M extension. 2013 is being treated as a wash considering the injury deluge that swamped the Falcons roster, most notably to Julio Jones and Roddy White. If he’s being given a pass for a horrible season, and it seems most are…it also means that a QB paid as well as Ryan gets one do-over. So he’s fresh out. There’s no doubt that Ryan is solid playing the QB position. And with the right weapons, I suspect his 2014 season will resemble his 2012 season moreso than his 2013. But Ryan has to be judged by his ability to put this team on his shoulders now. Hard Knocks has shown some behind the scenes glimpses at his leadership style, one in which he still seems to be growing into, but also one he recognizes needs to become more hands –on. How that translates to the Falcons ability and commitment to follow him will ultimately tell the tale on his career.

2) Hard Knocks – it was fun to be closer to the subjects this show covered. As a dedicated watcher…it lent a different familiarity than in seasons past. The show will be a great motivator throughout Ra’Shede Hageman’s career I dare say because as the unquestioned ‘player star’ of the show, his ups and downs and his whole playing personality/demeanor will now be represented by what he put on tape; not just the All-22, but the HBO cameras that positioned him as a big kid with a load of potential, but one that also seemed to sulk in the midst of adversity and badgering. The most interesting comment was from Cox who seemed to indicate that Hageman should not expect to play more than 30 snaps/game if that. So the Falcons clearly see Hageman as a back-up at this juncture. And if there was a greater moment on this show than JJ Watt’s entrance to the practice field, I haven’t seen it.

3) New Orleans – it won’t be a popular opinion on these boards, but I see the 2014 season for the Saints being very similar to what the 2012 season was for the Falcons. In short, I feel the deck is stacked up for them to be perhaps the NFC representative in the SB. What NO has done extremely well is develop impact defensive players. Cameron Jordan, Junior Gallette, Akiem Hicks and Kenny Vaccaro are homegrown talents, albeit somewhat highly drafted, that have become significant players on that side of the ball. Coupled with some savvy veteran FA signings (Lofton, Lewis, Byrd), the Saints really have a defense that can win games for them…not just limit opposing offenses to scoring less than what their prodigious offense is capable of. It’s an area of franchise development that the Falcons have struggled to match, particularly in the front 7. Rob Ryan was a perfect match for this franchise as DC, not just in terms of schematic fit, but attitude as well and for a team that I had felt lost its’ mojo and way a bit in 2011/2012, I think this is a team poised to compete at the top levels of the NFC again. The Falcons have their work cut out for them.

4) What else do the Falcons need?

a.
The secondary needs to step up
– Desmond Trufant looks like a keeper, but the jury is still out on Robert Alford. Ironically, Trufant’s quick development may not be the best thing for Alford as he’ll most likely be the CB offenses go after. Coming into the NFL last season, Alford possessed an incredible amount of ability, but a lack of polish. His up and down pre-season seems to indicate he still isn’t where the Falcons need him to be.

b.
Steven Jackson’s hamstrings to hold up
– At this point, I would take Michael Turner’s plodding 2012 season and production from Jackson who has proven to be unreliable from a health standpoint. The lack of confidence I have in his 100% is significant. Coupled with the fact that the Falcons feel that Devonta Freeman is not yet up to snuff rom a pass pro perspective and it leaves the Falcons dangerously thin at RB. If Jackson goes down, I fear that Jacquizz is next man up. He simply doesn’t have the rushing ability to make a difference for Ryan & Co.

c.
Calling Jonathan Massaquoi?
– Let’s face it. The Falcons pass rush is not good. While Mike Nolan is renowned for saying he’d prefer 10 guys get 4 sacks versus 4 guys get 10 sacks…that axiom has become more coachspeak for ‘JJ Watt isn’t walking through that door’. And this may be this administrations biggest stain on their resume, but to date…they simply have yet to develop or even acquire a worthwhile pass rusher. John Abraham was always a guy the Falcons looked to in these situations…but as of now, I don’t really see one guy on the roster capable of driving a defense crazy. Quite frankly, in this capacity, there doesn’t even to be a player that’s annoying in that regard. Whether it’s Massaquoi, or Goodman or Maponga, or whomever…reaping returns on these players drafted in the last 2-3 years on that side of the ball is long overdue. And in some cases…if it doesn’t happen this year…I don’t think it will and right now, I’m already having doubts. Having someone emerge is critical to the short and long term success here.

d.
Pass protection
– To be frank, the injury to Baker was a blessing for the Falcons. It accelerates a development cycle that IMO had been put on ice because of a faulty commitment to an injury-plagued player who at his best topped out at league average. If this was the long range plan due mostly to financial necessity, it was best to have long range become short range. To be fair, Matthews has had some struggles but at the same time, looks like with some adjustments and a ‘getting to know the NFL’ period, can become a very good LT fairly quickly. But it’s tough right off the bat and a slow start for a unit I feel has a fragile psyche at the moment could be a bad omen. Solid performances from Game 1 could do wonders for a unit that last year, drew the ire of one Arthur Blank. Establishing an early tone that builds off successes is going to be critical.

5) Overall? – The way I see it, I mostly agree with the analysts that say this is a middle of the road type team. There are some key things we do very well. Moving the ball down the field…perhaps putting up points to match if our red zone efficiency comes together. But defensively, I’m not yet sold that we’ve done enough to protect areas that our defense that are weak. I think good-to-great offenses will be able to find ways to attack us and that will put a lot of pressure on Ryan to match wits and TD’s. I thought last year he wilted under that microscope and responsibility for the first time in his career. Whether the reasons were valid or not…it did happen. At $20M/year, the Falcons have rightfully placed a lot of the fate of the franchise on Ryan’s shoulders and the notion of whether this team overachieves will rest on his ability to deliver. A run in the playoffs will do wonders for his stature within the locker room and in league circles where Ryan seemed to have settled into ‘good, but’ territory.

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1) Big season for Ryan – we’re entering Year 7 of Ryan’s tenure in Atlanta. This is the first year of his $20M extension. 2013 is being treated as a wash considering the injury deluge that swamped the Falcons roster, most notably to Julio Jones and Roddy White. If he’s being given a pass for a horrible season, and it seems most are…it also means that a QB paid as well as Ryan gets one do-over. So he’s fresh out. There’s no doubt that Ryan is solid playing the QB position. And with the right weapons, I suspect his 2014 season will resemble his 2012 season moreso than his 2013. But Ryan has to be judged by his ability to put this team on his shoulders now. Hard Knocks has shown some behind the scenes glimpses at his leadership style, one in which he still seems to be growing into, but also one he recognizes needs to become more hands –on. How that translates to the Falcons ability and commitment to follow him will ultimately tell the tale on his career.

2) Hard Knocks – it was fun to be closer to the subjects this show covered. As a dedicated watcher…it lent a different familiarity than in seasons past. The show will be a great motivator throughout Ra’Shede Hageman’s career I dare say because as the unquestioned ‘player star’ of the show, his ups and downs and his whole playing personality/demeanor will now be represented by what he put on tape; not just the All-22, but the HBO cameras that positioned him as a big kid with a load of potential, but one that also seemed to sulk in the midst of adversity and badgering. The most interesting comment was from Cox who seemed to indicate that Hageman should not expect to play more than 30 snaps/game if that. So the Falcons clearly see Hageman as a back-up at this juncture. And if there was a greater moment on this show than JJ Watt’s entrance to the practice field, I haven’t seen it.

3) New Orleans – it won’t be a popular opinion on these boards, but I see the 2014 season for the Saints being very similar to what the 2012 season was for the Falcons. In short, I feel the deck is stacked up for them to be perhaps the NFC representative in the SB. What NO has done extremely well is develop impact defensive players. Cameron Jordan, Junior Gallette, Akiem Hicks and Kenny Vaccaro are homegrown talents, albeit somewhat highly drafted, that have become significant players on that side of the ball. Coupled with some savvy veteran FA signings (Lofton, Lewis, Byrd), the Saints really have a defense that can win games for them…not just limit opposing offenses to scoring less than what their prodigious offense is capable of. It’s an area of franchise development that the Falcons have struggled to match, particularly in the front 7. Rob Ryan was a perfect match for this franchise as DC, not just in terms of schematic fit, but attitude as well and for a team that I had felt lost its’ mojo and way a bit in 2011/2012, I think this is a team poised to compete at the top levels of the NFC again. The Falcons have their work cut out for them.

4) What else do the Falcons need?

a.
The secondary needs to step up
– Desmond Trufant looks like a keeper, but the jury is still out on Robert Alford. Ironically, Trufant’s quick development may not be the best thing for Alford as he’ll most likely be the CB offenses go after. Coming into the NFL last season, Alford possessed an incredible amount of ability, but a lack of polish. His up and down pre-season seems to indicate he still isn’t where the Falcons need him to be.

b.
Steven Jackson’s hamstrings to hold up
– At this point, I would take Michael Turner’s plodding 2012 season and production from Jackson who has proven to be unreliable from a health standpoint. The lack of confidence I have in his 100% is significant. Coupled with the fact that the Falcons feel that Devonta Freeman is not yet up to snuff rom a pass pro perspective and it leaves the Falcons dangerously thin at RB. If Jackson goes down, I fear that Jacquizz is next man up. He simply doesn’t have the rushing ability to make a difference for Ryan & Co.

c.
Calling Jonathan Massaquoi?
– Let’s face it. The Falcons pass rush is not good. While Mike Nolan is renowned for saying he’d prefer 10 guys get 4 sacks versus 4 guys get 10 sacks…that axiom has become more coachspeak for ‘JJ Watt isn’t walking through that door’. And this may be this administrations biggest stain on their resume, but to date…they simply have yet to develop or even acquire a worthwhile pass rusher. John Abraham was always a guy the Falcons looked to in these situations…but as of now, I don’t really see one guy on the roster capable of driving a defense crazy. Quite frankly, in this capacity, there doesn’t even to be a player that’s annoying in that regard. Whether it’s Massaquoi, or Goodman or Maponga, or whomever…reaping returns on these players drafted in the last 2-3 years on that side of the ball is long overdue. And in some cases…if it doesn’t happen this year…I don’t think it will and right now, I’m already having doubts. Having someone emerge is critical to the short and long term success here.

d.
Pass protection
– To be frank, the injury to Baker was a blessing for the Falcons. It accelerates a development cycle that IMO had been put on ice because of a faulty commitment to an injury-plagued player who at his best topped out at league average. If this was the long range plan due mostly to financial necessity, it was best to have long range become short range. To be fair, Matthews has had some struggles but at the same time, looks like with some adjustments and a ‘getting to know the NFL’ period, can become a very good LT fairly quickly. But it’s tough right off the bat and a slow start for a unit I feel has a fragile psyche at the moment could be a bad omen. Solid performances from Game 1 could do wonders for a unit that last year, drew the ire of one Arthur Blank. Establishing an early tone that builds off successes is going to be critical.

5) Overall? – The way I see it, I mostly agree with the analysts that say this is a middle of the road type team. There are some key things we do very well. Moving the ball down the field…perhaps putting up points to match if our red zone efficiency comes together. But defensively, I’m not yet sold that we’ve done enough to protect areas that our defense that are weak. I think good-to-great offenses will be able to find ways to attack us and that will put a lot of pressure on Ryan to match wits and TD’s. I thought last year he wilted under that microscope and responsibility for the first time in his career. Whether the reasons were valid or not…it did happen. At $20M/year, the Falcons have rightfully placed a lot of the fate of the franchise on Ryan’s shoulders and the notion of whether this team overachieves will rest on his ability to deliver. A run in the playoffs will do wonders for his stature within the locker room and in league circles where Ryan seemed to have settled into ‘good, but’ territory.

Excelllent post bro. You should really be a weekly columnist for somebody. Thanks for trimming it down to 4,000 words. I read most of it. The day you learn to get it down to 500 words you'll take off. Trust me. I'll try to go back and reply later because I took issue with a couple points, but overall, excellent.

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