Posted on: December 10, 2009 6:31 pm
If anyone missed the news, Chris Houston is OUT for this weekend against the Saints with a bad hamstring. Justin Peelle has a concu... er, "head injury". He hasn't officially been scratched yet, but that's likely to change with tomorrow's injury report. I've already scratched him from my projected lineup.
Jonathan Babineaux, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Sam Baker and Will Svitek are all limited but practicing. If they hold up, they'll all be available. The question is how effective they'll all be. We've seen Baker get torched while trying to play hurt earlier this season, and Roddy wasn't particularly effective either the first couple of games after he got banged up. So while Jenkins might be in the lineup, it's questionable how effective he'll be.
Todd McClure returned to limited practice today. He's going to try to play this weekend if the medical staff will clear him. They probably will.
Harvey Dahl isn't doing quite so well. He has been resting his ankle and working with the trainers rather than practicing. He'll start with the training staff tomorrow before practice. If all goes well, he'll be listed as "questionable" on tomorrow's injury report and will be a game time decision.
Best guess... Baker and McClure play. Brett Romberg will be active but will NOT start for Dahl since McClure is also dicey. Quinn Ojinnaka likely starts at right guard. The backup tackle will be a game time decision between Svitek and Garrett Reynolds.
The best news of the week: Chris Owens is fully back in action. Unless something happens to him in practice tomorrow, he'll probably start this weekend. No word yet on who will start across from him, but it's not all that significant since the coaches are expected to once again rotate the remaining corners.
And of course the story all the media is covering: Michael Turner and Matt Ryan are both still being held out completely. The team hasn't announced that either of them will be scratched, and the official word from the coaching staff is that the team hopes they'll both be able to play. Unfortunately, the unofficial word is that the chances are less than 50/50 that either of them will see the field this weekend. It's possible, but they'll both have to make some significant progress in the next two days.
So we'll probably be up against the undefeated Saints without our starting quarterback or running back to go along with our patchwork defense. It's a good thing I'm not in Vegas like last weekend. I'd be tempted to put a chunk of money down AGAINST us this week - regardless of the spread.
Posted on: October 3, 2009 10:04 pm
Just filling the void of the early bye week with this one...
After three weeks, we've seen some interesting signs - both good and bad. Here are ten observations, in no particular order:
Tony Gonzalez is everything we hoped he'd be. Wow...
The young secondary isn't as bad as we feared, but they still have a long way to go. Brian Williams and Tye Hill may prove to be our CBs of the near future. And yes, I'll go ahead and say it: I'm not expecting to see Chris Houston in a Falcons uniform beyond 2010, if he even lasts that long.
Jason Snelling can play. It's scary to think that Petrino actually cut him to make room for (gulp) Artose Pinner, who was allegedly Petrino's short yard specialist. Yeah, right... nice move, Coach Booby. Snelling is much better all around and excels in short yardage situations. He can block and catch passes out of the backfield too.
The Falcons are still overusing Michael Turner. For heaven's sake Smitty, give the man more rest. 350+ carries a season is too many.
Eric Weems is getting it done as a return man. If he keeps this up he'll stick on the roster purely for his special teams play, regardless of whether he ever blossoms as a wideout. (And as hard as he's been working the last two years, I'm not ready to count him out even at WR.)
We're still undersized in the middle of the d-line, with or without Peria Jerry. I hoped our braintrust would have solved this problem by now. The smoke and mirrors approach to disguising it can only go so far, as the Falcons saw in the wild card loss to the Cardinals.
The preview rags all said the linebacker group would be a problem. HA! Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson and Curtis Lofton are looking pretty good early on. (While I'm picking on the previews, the so-called professional analysts also unanimously claimed the Falcons had depth problems on the o-line. Who comes up with this nonsense, and have any of these guys ever even been to the complex??)
Any questions about whether Chauncey Davis would take away Jamaal Anderson's starting job are now officially moot. They're both duds. (Kroy Biermann is part of the answer, but even with his added bulk he's still too small for a lot of snaps in run defense. The Eagles game will be a big test for him. The Philadelphia o-line pancaked him non-stop in last year's game.)
Thomas DeCoud is turning into a beast. In camp and preseason LAST year, he looked lost - hesitating, misreading plays, and missing open field tackles. This year he's coming on strong and showing that he truly deserves the starting spot. Even if William Moore had been healthy all preseason, Decoud probably would have won the job.
We have weapons beyond belief on the offensive side of the ball, but the play calling has suddenly become more conservative than the FOX News Channel. And this three man rush prevent defense has got to go. It almost cost the team the game against the Panthers. Sooner or later it will turn a W into an L. If we're going to put an end to this back-to-back thing, we can't afford to let games slip away.
Posted on: September 9, 2009 10:49 pm
Preseason's out of the way, and the Falcons are nearly at full health. Obviously Harry Douglas is a total loss, but he's the ONLY significant casualty for the summer. There were others who were banged up or still recovering from 2008 injuries (David Irons, Von Hutchins, Tywain Myles, Jason Jefferson) but they all faced uphill battles to make this year's roster - and all were able to participate at the very least in OTAs.
That's even better than last year, when the Falcons lost Von Hutchins (on the first day of training camp), linebacker prospects Robert James and Travis Williams, TE prospect Brad Listorti, Thomas Brown (in the final preseason game), had linemen Trey Lewis and Renardo Foster on PUP (with both moving straight to IR), and had Todd Weiner far from 100% rehabbing from his 2007 major knee surgery. All of those players were strong candidates for at least the practice squad if not the regular roster, and all but Weiner were total losses.
And last year was considered a good summer for going without major injuries.
The very first official injury report of the year came out today. Only William Moore (still nursing his hamstring) did not practice at all. John Abraham (knee) was limited but did participate.
Jerious Norwood (head, foot) was fully back in action. Abraham should be ready to go this weekend. Moore is likely to be held out, but that's really not a loss - since he missed the entire preseason after his minor surgery, he would almost certainly have been one of the eight inactive players anyway.
The best news of all from the injury report - Chris Houston wasn't even on the list. He had hamstring issues that affected him in the final two preseason games (only five days apart). He's back at full strength now, so hopefully his horror show is over.
Thoughts on the Wildcat, since the Dolphins are the main team using it: if done properly, it's more than just a gimmick. There really are sound fundamentals behind it. The main one is that it gives the offense an extra lead blocker on running plays.
If the quarterback is off the field entirely (which is the way I prefer to see it done) or way, way out wide at the flanker position (hopefully avoiding contact - think Randy Moss "taking a play off"), then there's no need for the person taking the snap to hand the ball to someone else. Or if there is a handoff or pitchout, the guy who took the snap can become a lead blocker.
If you line up with a running back at the QB position, plus another running back (or TE lined up in that spot) and a fullback, the RB who takes the snap can follow both of the other two lead blockers. That's a major advantage over a regular handoff, when the QB simply becomes dead weight after handing the ball to the tailback. It's one more guy for the defense to overcome.
I know teams use the single-wing and other goofy packages, but the simple run straight up the middle is the main situation I want to watch out for in this game. That's still a point of weakness for the Falcons defense.
If the DTs are single-blocked by the guards (who are bigger than all our DTs except for Trey Lewis), the center will be free to block a linebacker. The TE will take another linebacker - or perhaps even a DE, with the tackle moving downfield to the LB. And then there will be not one but two lead blockers for the ball carrier. Even one of the safeties will have a blocker between him and the ball carrier.
We saw the damage that can do in preseason (the Sproles TD against our first unit defense in the Chargers game) even without the Wildcat package. Add another lead blocker, and it could be big trouble.
The initial practice squad consisted entirely of players who had been through training camp with the Falcons. That's a rare item, but it didn't last. Since the team kept only nine offensive linemen, center/guard Ben Wilkerson was the odd man out. That leaves Brett Romberg as the only real center on the roster behind Todd McClure.
This week the Falcons added center Rob Bruggeman to the practice squad as an insurance policy. Bruggeman became a full time starter in his senior season at Iowa. He was signed as an undrafted free agent and went through training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Guard/tackle Mike Butterworth (last year's undrafted free agent from Slippery Rock) was released from the squad to make room for Bruggeman.
NFL Draft Scout (whose rankings are featured here on CBS Sports dot com) rated Bruggeman as the 13th best center in this year's draft class and the 336th best overall prospect - just ahead of Falcons sixth round pick Spencer Adkins, who ranked 337th overall. Bruggeman's practice squad linemate Jose Valdez ranked 342nd.
The Dolphins have also made their first practice squad move already. They promoted tackle Nate Garner from the squad to the main roster to replace released tight end Davon Drew.
The Falcons are working Tye Hill and Brian Williams hard to get them up to speed on learning the defensive scheme, play calls, etc. There are only so many things you can do with cover one, cover two, etc, but the assignments, reads, and communications do take time to learn - even for a veteran.
Williams has a huge headstart because he played under Smitty and DB coach Alvin Reynolds for several seasons with the Jaguars. He may see action this weekend, but unless other DBs get hurt the team won't make any decisions until after Friday's practice. I'm anticipating seeing one if not both of them on the active roster against the Dolphins, though I suspect neither one will start.
Posted on: September 4, 2009 2:37 am
I was glad to have the chance to see this one in the Dome. I travel a lot and miss most of the home games. The new vid screens are sweet.
I recorded the broadcast but haven't watched it yet. From my vantage point, I didn't get to see detail of the backup offensive linemen (Adam Speer, Ryan Stanchek, Jose Valdez, Ben Wilkerson, Mike Butterworth) who are in the hunt for the last roster spots and/or practice squad jobs. I know the mop-up unit as a whole didn't look as good as the regular second unit, but that's obviously no surprise.
I'll have to watch the broadcast tomorrow to see how well each one of them did individually.
Quick takes from the Dome: the offensive play calls were way too basic and conservative. The defense did pull some blitzes, but those seemed pretty tame as well. The two that I remember most were both delayed blitzes that were too slow in developing to have any chance of success. Again it felt like the coaching staff kept things simple to evaluate how well the kids did the basics.
I may change my mind on that one after watching the TV broadcast, but that's how it felt - this was all about evaluations, and the coaches didn't put much effort into actually trying to win this one. Some fans booed when the team ran on third and long to end the opening drive. I understand their frustration - everyone in the Dome knew that was the end of the night for the starters, and it felt like the coaches were packing it in just to get them off the field.
Christopher Owens had a bad game. A *really* bad game. I know lots of fans want the Falcons to start him instead of Brent Grimes, but he proved he isn't ready. He's a fine prospect, but you really don't want rookies or even second year players to start in the secondary if you can avoid it. (Yes, the Falcons are doing it. But that's exactly why we've all complained about the secondary for the last two years...)
Chris Houston had another off game. I'll bet we'll soon start hearing speculation that Tye Hill will replace him instead of Grimes. Don't blame Houston for that first TD pass though. Mike Peterson had the coverage on that one and got torched.
I've posted a few times that Keith Zinger struck me in practice as the most improved Falcons player since last season and that I wouldn't be surprised if he landed the #3 job. I say he nailed it tonight. Tony Gonzalez starts, Justin Peelle is the #2, and Zinger is the #3. Considering Zinger was the fifth string TE even for the Rams game, that's a nice accomplishment.
Robert Ferguson may have lost his roster spot. Eric Weems stepped up and had another solid game. Ferguson didn't.
If the Falcons only keep five WRs, Weems made a pretty strong case that he should be the #5. Also, Weems and Chandler Williams have been the main candidates (virtually the only candidates) for the punt return job. So the Falcons will either have to (a) keep six WRs, (b) keep Weems or Williams instead of Ferguson, or (c) find another punt returner that hasn't had many reps in preseason. After this game, Ferguson can only hope for (a) - and then hope he's the #6 instead of Troy Bergeron or Williams.
Vance Walker has played well enough to win a practice squad spot, but it's tough to say he's going to make the roster. Thomas Johnson has had the inside track as the fourth DT and has been pretty solid, but Walker also had good game and is getting better every day. He clearly beat out Tywain Myles and Jason Jefferson, and he's making it extremely tough to cut him.
The twist is that whoever wins the fourth DT job will be on the inactive list every week unless someone else gets too banged up to play. If the coaches figure that Walker will have a few more weeks of practice before he sees action, they might choose to keep him rather than risk losing him to another team by putting him on waivers and sending him to the practice squad.
Kroy Biermann bulked up in the offseason and it showed. He may have been playing against the second unit, but he had a monster game. (If a second string DE plays lights out against the second unit OL, that still counts as a good performance.) I say the Falcons will use one of the extra roster spots to keep all five defensive ends.
Maurice Lucas had a sack tonight, but I don't know if he's earned a practice squad job. I'm guessing the sack won't make a significant difference - if he hadn't won it already, he still hasn't won't it after this game.
I saw Jamie Winborn make two solid plays and botch one pretty badly. Offhand, I really don't remember too much from Spencer Adkins or Robert James. They each had a few tackles but nothing that stood out (either good or bad) in my mind.
Coy Wire and Tony Gilbert are set as the #4 and #5 LBs. Winborn probably has the edge for the #6 spot. Adkins and James are both eligible for the practice squad if they don't make it as a seventh linebacker or beat out Winborn for the sixth spot.
I'll have to watch the broadcast in detail, but NONE of the backup safeties really jumped out at me during the game live.
Finally, on the QBs - John Parker Wilson started out rough and looked a little gun-shy. But he got it together and had a couple of really solid drives. He showed he has some solid potential - it was pretty obvious why Mike Mularkey says he really likes the kid.
I still feel JPW and DJ are both good candidates for the #3 job but that neither of them is ready for real game action. Bulldog and Crimson Tide fans will feel differently about it, but frankly it doesn't matter which one wins the #3 spot. If either one of them sees the field this year, it's a disaster.
So it's Redman as the #2 unless the team picks up someone from outside the organization. And as I mentioned in a thread on the Falcons message board, Smitty was asked point blank after practice yesterday if Redman would be the backup QB again this year. Smitty dodged the question.
I thought that was rather interesting. Considering Redman was highly respected as the backup last season and that Smitty said he had a great game against the Chargers, it's hard to understand Smitty not being willing to say Redman is his #2. I say the team might be considering an upgrade after the Saturday roster cuts. This year's #2 QB might be someone not currently in the Falcons organization...
Posted on: July 24, 2009 5:59 pm
from a piece found on the Atlanta Falcons web site:
"The offense gets a lot of publicity and notoriety and they deserve that but don't overlook this defense," Lofton said during the offseason. "We have a lot of young guys that started for us last year and really didn't know what they were doing. This year we're into the system and we know what we're doing. I think we're going to shock some people on defense with how good we are."
Builds some extra excitement for training camp, doesn't it?
Fans often overlooked just how young the Falcons defense was last season when watching them play. These kids are so young they can barely get their uniforms on over their Huggies. They're still developing as players, and they weren't bad even last year.
Chris Houston is only 24. Trey Lewis is 24. Jamaal Anderson just turned 23. Stephen Nicholas, Brent Grimes, Jamaal Fudge, David Irons, and Chauncey Davis are all hitting their stride at 26. Even Erik Coleman, the "veteran" of the secondary, is only 27. And then there are 12 more players on defense who were drafted last season or this season.
Watching the preseason games last year, I thought rookie Thomas DeCoud looked a bit lost at safety and blew a few key plays. He showed steady improvement in practice throghout the season and looked GREAT in minicamp and OTAs. He'll get his chance to win the starting job this season.
Brent Grimes still wows everyone in the complex with his athleticism. I know fans think he got beaten by a few deep passes, but the two most significant ones weren't even his primary responsibility. (Keep in mind that in a cover two scheme, there's supposed to be a pair of safeties for the deep zones.) And he had only popped up to the main roster for the final two games of 2007, so opening day was just his third career game as well as his first start. In other words, he was a rookie, just like Chevis Jackson.
If Lofton is right - if Grimes, Jackson, Decoud, Lewis, Anderson, Kroy Biermann, and the rest continue to develop - this team could be downright scary by the end of the season.
Posted on: March 17, 2009 3:35 pm
I started to do a piece on how building/maintaining a roster during the offseason essentially boils down to a really big math problem. Each team has constraints in the form of limited cap space, a defined number of roster spots, practice squad spots, and draft picks. The GM's objective is to get the maximum benefit of the available resources in order to establish the best roster year after year.
To do this, you evaluate what you have and what resources are available, and you move in the direction that will give you the most benefit. Then you evaluate again, make the next move(s), etc.
Several GMs understand the concepts even though most do not define the problem in purely mathematical terms. Thomas Dimitroff and Rich McKay both fall into this category, and head coach Mike Smith is on board with the approach as well.
I'll skip the heavy-duty math and keep this as short as possible. The first step in "The Process" is to form a baseline. You define your potential roster using as few resources (cap space, draft picks) as possible. You fill in any holes with prospects (not draft picks - we're not there yet) or dirt cheap free agents.
Note that this isn't the actual roster. It's just the starting point. And you don't actually have to sign any cheap free agents yet - just knowing they're readily available is enough.
The key is that as soon as you can form a reasonably competent roster, the moves you make from that point forward can all be to improve the team rather than to plug holes. That's when you have the freedom to go in any direction you want in free agency and the draft, and when you can stockpile for the future rather than scramble to keep a roster together for today.
Here's our current potential roster:
Offensive line: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Harvey Dahl, Tyson Clabo, plus four of Quinn Ojinnaka, Brett Romberg, Nate Bennett, Renardo Foster, Alex Stepanovich, Will Svitek, Michael Butterworth, Ben Wilkerson. (The competition in camp will be extremely tight, so for now I just listed them all. Pick your favorite four and roll with it.)
Two at-large roster spots remain. Key in-house candidates include an extra offensive lineman, Eric Brock at safety, Simon Fraser at DE, Eric Weems and Chandler Williams at WR, or any of several DT or CB prospects.
Something I find very interesting: in general, this baseline is already better than our 2008 opening roster. Considering we haven't even hit the draft yet, that's encouraging. (With the team being so young, even the names that haven't changed are upgrades. For example, Matt Ryan has now started 17 games. Heading into 2008, he had started none. The extra experience will be a major factor for four of our starting offensive linemen, two of our WRs, and too many of our players on defense to name them all.)
One thing that continues to jump out at me is that we don't have a lot of holes to fill. We do have some, and they're certainly important, but there aren't a lot of them. That's a part of why we haven't signed as many no-name free agents as last year. Our baseline is already at a level where there isn't much point to bringing in another dozen or so guys off the street the way we did last season. They would have virtually no chance of beating out the guys we have in house. (And this year, we know it.)
It's also noteworthy that with fairly few roster spots that could be upgraded via the draft, the likelihood of trading away one or more of our draft picks increases. In the last two seasons we made deals to increase our total number of picks and ended up selecting 11 players in each draft. This year, we simply won't have room for another 11 prospects. The extra picks would end up being wasted. We're far more likely to go the other direction, either packaging picks to move up or trading picks out to future drafts. We'd get far more benefit from three really good prospects than our full complement of seven picks scattered throughout the draft.
Posted on: November 21, 2008 5:18 pm
The whisper in the wind has been that Grady's appeal is coming very soon. Apparently it didn't happen today, but the expectation is that it will be sometime next week.
Grady had his knee scoped on Monday. He missed practice Wednesday, was back Thursday, but rested today. He's officially listed as questionable. He's likely to play a limited number of snaps, but the final decision will come a few hours before game time.
Carolina is at full strength for this game (allegedly - more later) while Atlanta is more banged up than they have been in any other week. Baker, Moorehead, and Laurent Robinson are all definitely out. Abraham is still limited by that neck injury late in the game two weeks ago. Roddy White practiced today after missing the rest of the week with his back.
Grimes still isn't 100%, but he's close enough that he fully participated in practice this week. Expect him to be available, though Foxworth is likely to remain the starter. Chris Houston is nursing some tender ribs at the other corner. He's officially listed as questionable but is likely to play.
Norwood also got banged in the ribs late last week. He's still a little sore but hasn't missed any practice time. He's also officially listed as questionable, but expect to see him in action on Sunday.
Todd Weiner is still having flare-ups with his knee. He will probably be available, but even if he's listed as active, he won't be able to play every snap. We might be looking at Ojinnaka and Gandy for most of the day at LT.
As mentioned in an earlier entry, Renardo Foster and Trey Lewis are both out for the year. Both were close enough in their rehab to make the decisions interesting, but in both cases the verdict was that rushing them back would probably do more harm than good. (But for everyone who is already thinking about next year's draft, keep in mind that these two heavyweights will be back in camp next season.)
The big issue for Carolina will be the health of starting QB Jake Delhomme. His struggles over the last two weeks aren't just in the stats. Reports are that his throws haven't had the velocity of his throws earlier in the season. He's coming back from major surgery. The question is whether he was simply in a slump against Oakland and Detroit or whether his arm is tiring out.
Something else also mentioned in the previous entry: if you still have the video from our final preseason game, you might want to take another look at it. J'Vonne Parker was added to the Falcon practice squad when the team first got word of Grady's pending suspension.
He hasn't had a whole lot of playing time in his career, so there isn't all that much film on him available. But he started the third preseason game for Baltimore and got some good playing time in their final preseason game - which was against us. And he played pretty well. He's credited with four tackles in that game.
The coaches are working fast and furious to get him up to speed on our defensive schemes. If Grady is suspended, he may get promoted to the main roster. At 325 pounds, he'd be 25 pounds larger than anyone else we have on the D-line. For better or worse, he'd likely be thrown into the fire as the instant anchor of the run defense.
If all else fails, Rashad Moore and Tim Anderson are both still available as free agents.
Posted on: November 10, 2008 6:01 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2008 9:32 pm
Shortly after the combine, DeAngelo Hall demanded a trade. The Falcons consented. And right after his new team played against these very Falcons, Hall found himself unemployed. He didn't want to be a Falcon to start the season, and it turned out that the Falcons didn't want him back to finish the season.
We rip MeAngelo to shreds on a regular basis on the Falcon message board, but I do have to give him due credit. Going into that Oakland-Atlanta game, he had 3 interceptions (all of the Atlanta cornerbacks combined had only two) and was second in the league in passes defended.
In the meantime, Brent Grimes moved up from the practice squad and has played pretty well. Chris Houston is developing nicely. Chevis Jackson is still making rookie mistakes, but he's progressing well too. But the real treasure came out of a week 1 trade with Denver. It's our new top cornerback, Domonique Foxworth.
With 18 starts and 46 games played in the prior three seasons, Foxworth is by far the most experienced cornerback on Atlanta's active roster. Chris Houston started 11 games as a rookie last season, while Grimes appeared in (but did not start) the last two games of 2007 after interim coach Emmitt Thomas called him up from the practice squad. David Irons played special teams last season, and Chevis Jackson is a rookie this season.
Foxworth was strictly a backup and saw very little action until the bye week, as the coaches waited until he could learn the defense before they threw him in. But he's now listed on the team's depth chart as the starting left cornerback, ahead of Brent Grimes. Grimes hurt his knee late in the game against Chicago. Foxworth has started the three games since then.
In his first three starts as a Falcon, Foxworth has notched 5 passes defensed and has allowed very few completions, becoming Atlanta's most dependable defensive back.
He is a free agent after this season. Under the terms of the trade, the Falcons would have to send their sixth round draft pick to Denver if they re-sign him. There are also reports that the seventh round pick Atlanta traded to acquire him is a conditional pick that could escalate based on playing time.
It should also be noted that Foxworth can play safety. The team should get Von Hutchins back from IR next season. If they can retain Foxworth, the what-ifs for next season's secondary will be really interesting...