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Tag:Curtis Lofton
Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Looking ahead... free agency

One of the rare weeks where I'm in Atlanta for the weekend, and naturally it's our bye week...  Oh well.  That makes it a pretty good time to take a look at this coming offseason. 

The Falcons had it easy with free agency heading into the 2009 and 2010 seasons, as the team was loaded with young players locked under contract.  But the pendulum swung the other way this season and will be full tilt this coming offseason.

John Abraham will be a free agent.  So will Brent Grimes, since we only tendered him as a RFA this year.   Ditto for Eric Weems.  The team only resigned Jason Snelling for a one year deal.  He's a free agent again this year too.  Same story with linebacker Mike Peterson.

Tony Gonzalez is in the final year of his contract.  So are Todd McClure and Chris Redman, plus Joe Zelenka (long snappers are people too).  And so are the second and later rounders from the 2008 draft:  Curtis Lofton, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann, and Harry Douglas
And except for DE Ray Edwards, who inked a long term deal, all of our new Falcons are only signed for this season:  Kelvin Hayden, James Sanders, Brett Romberg, Reggie Kelly, Kirk Chambers, Mike Cox.

That's 19 unrestricted free agents on the current 53-man roster.  Yikes...



At quarterback, Matt Ryan is still here.  But John Parker Wilson is already a free agent -  all practice squad members are free agents who could be plucked at any time.  It's not a good sign for his future that the team chose to expose him rather than keep him on the roster.  And Redman will turn 35 before the start of training camp next year.  He may still have another year or two left in the tank, but I wouldn't depend on it.   So figure at least one new quarterback - and maybe two - in our future next year.

At running back, the Falcons are in reasonable shape for 2012 - mainly because serviceable running backs are so easy to come by, and because the backups are still so underused.  (Michael Turner has 138 carries going into the bye.  The other RB/FBs have a combined total of 24.)  Antone Smith has yet to carry the ball this year at all.  He's likely to be a fringe player once again next summer.

At tight end, Michael Palmer is an exclusive rights free agent.  That means the team can simply renew his contract, which makes him the only tight end they have locked in at all.  Gonzalez has said he feels like he can play a few more years.  He has also said before that he'd like to end his career with the Chiefs, so there's no telling whether he'd resign with Atlanta.  Practice squad players Marquez Branson (injured) and Tommy Gallarda are likely to be here for camp on futures contracts.  But we'll probably need more -  I wouldn't expect to see Kelly back for another season.

At wide receiver, I would guess that Douglas wouldn't be too difficult to resign.  Roddy White and Julio Jones are both here long term, and Kerry Meier is still under contract and likely to be more involved in his second year back from ACL surgery.  The interesting question is whether one of the prospects might challenge for a roster spot.  The front office reversed course last season.  Instead of going for big guys with good hands but who are slow as molasses, the team started looking at speedsters.  D.J. Davis and Kevin Cone are both lightning quick, and they're both getting a chance to learn the offense on the practice squad. 

(I'm thrilled to see the change - finally.  Too bad they couldn't have gone that route back in 2009, when we really could have used a speedster.  Our scouts had seen Johnny Knox at the Texas vs The Nation game - but after trading away Laurent Robinson, Dimitroff left Knox sitting on the draft board to take cornerback William Middleton instead.)

For all the fuss about how Atlanta's offensive line would supposedly be devastated by free agency this season, we turned out to be overloaded instead.  McClure is getting banged up pretty hard this year, and it's the final year of his contract.  Don't be surprised if Ol' Mud Duck hangs up the cleats.  But except for fill-ins Romberg and Chambers, everyone else is under contract at least through 2012.  (One caveat:  Sam Baker may be on one of those option or voidable years.)   And there's already extra depth in the pipeline, as both Andrew Jackson and Jose Valdez are still sitting on the practice squad.  

Specifically at center, Romberg would be likely to resign.  He came aboard this season as a street level free agent.  He's mainly working as a backup guard right now, but he's a natural center and was here previously as the #2 behind McClure.  He became expendable last year when the team drafted Joe Hawley.  Now he'd be a pretty obvious choice to bring back as Hawley's backup. 

At DE, we're in trouble.  Both Abraham and Biermann will be free agents.  Can we even afford to sign both?  We'd need at least one of them returning to supplement the remaining trio of Edwards, Lawrence Sidbury, and Cliff Matthews - and Sidbury will be a free agent after next season.   If we're going to stick with the current 4-3 scheme, the DE position will continue to need attention every year.

At DT, we're set.  Vance Walker will be a restricted free agent this offseason, and if he's still here, Carlton Powell would be a restricted free agent after 2012.  But the trio of Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry won't be free agents until 2014.

At linebacker, resigning Lofton will be a priority.  But otherwise, Peterson is the only free agent this year, and Spencer Adkins is the only one set to become a free agent next year. 

At cornerback, the question is whether we'd be able to hang on to Grimes at all.  He was hoping for a long term deal this year but only got a tender.  He's coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and continuing to make highlight reel plays.  If he hits the open market, somebody is bound to offer him the big bucks, as the Ravens did with Domonique Foxworth a few years back.   Hayden will also be a free agent this offseason, and Chris Owens will be entering the final year of his contract.   The team has already started preparing for 2012 by keeping undrafted rookie Darrin Walls on the roster, while Dominique Franks also continues to develop.

One potential scenario:  Grimes bolts for the big bucks, but the team resigns Hayden.  Even before the draft, that gives Atlanta a quintet of Dunta Robinson, Hayden, Owens, Franks and Walls.   Throw in few futures contract or two - perhaps bringing Kamaal McIlwain in for another run at training camp - and the group as a whole would at least be no worse off than in 2009 and 2010.

At safety, Decoud and Sanders are both free agents.  That leaves William Moore (who will be in the final year of his contract) and Shann Schillinger as the only safeties locked in.  The team opted to expose Rafael Bush to the practice squad instead of Walls, and he has already been plucked away.  Suaesi Tuimaunei is getting a chance to learn the system as the replacement for Bush on the practice squad.   He's an intriguing possibility as a long term project, but he won't be ready for real action in 2012.  At least one more safety will be a must. 




Posted on: December 24, 2009 2:16 am
 

early notes before the Bills game

Matt Ryan isn't practicing.  But don't panic - he's slated to play and is doing the walk-thrus, film room, game planning, etc.  The Falcons are simply taking it easy on his big toe to get him as healthy as possible for Sunday.

Michael Turner isn't practicing either.  He's a lot more dicey for this weekend than Ryan.  He'll be a game-time decision.

Harvey Dahl is likely to be back in action this weekend. 

Curtis Lofton got banged up on Sunday and didn't practice today.  He's trying to get back in action by Friday, but keep an eye on him.  He'll probably be listed as questionable on Friday's injury report.

I had hoped we'd see our old pal Bryan Scott in action this weekend.  He was our second round pick under Dan Reeves in 2003, but he fell out of favor with Mora's staff and was traded to the Saints a few years later.  He struggled in New Orleans too but has found new life with the Bills, earning his way back into the starting lineup.  Unfortunately, he's banged up and isn't practicing.  We probably won't see him on the field on Sunday.

Two other old friends of note are now on the Bills roster:  Chris Draft and Corey McIntyre.
Another familiar name we might see...  Brian Brohm is getting the reps with the first unit offense this week.  The Bills haven't officially named him the starter yet, but considering their regular starter and their #2 are banged up and their season is over anyway, it's quite likely that Petrino's former QB will get the nod. 

The Bills also brought in Gibran Hamdan for depth.  He's had some injury problems and hasn't latched on for the long term with an NFL team yet, but he showed some impressive potential in NFL Europe a few years back.  (Okay, go ahead and laugh.  But remember that Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme followed the same path.  Hamdan really lit up NFL-E, completing 63% of his passes for a QB rating of 113, averaging 10+ yards per attempt and throwing 4 times more touchdowns than interceptions.)  I wouldn't mind seeing him play, but as a Falcons fan I think I'd rather see Brohm get the start this weekend.

Rookie sensation Jairus Byrd was just placed on IR.  That might make life a little easier for Ryan and the WRs, but keep in mind that Buffalo's interim head coach was a secondary coach.  They'll have a solid game plan in place in their defensive backfield.  It won't be a cakewalk even without Byrd.

Posted on: September 17, 2009 11:49 pm
 

Ten observations from the Dolphins game

Sure, everyone's heard that Matt Ryan missed several deep passes (including two that would have been sure touchdowns), that Jason Elam had a nightmare of a game, that the Falcons rushing game got shut down, that Kroy Biermann emerged as a star, and that John Abraham is still a beast.

Here's a list of ten more observations that you might not have seen on the 11 o'clock news or the highlights shows...


The positive:
(1) The defense held the Dolphins under 100 rushing yards and under 200 passing yards.  All three levels of the defense stepped up, but especially the linebacker corps.  Last year, safeties Erik Coleman and Lawyer Milloy had 188 combined tackles.  In this game, the three leading tacklers were Curtis Lofton (10 plus 1 assist), Mike Peterson (7 plus a forced fumble and an INT), and Stephen Nicholas (7, including one on special teams).  The safeties only had to make two tackles each.

(2) Matt Ryan racked up a QB passer rating of 98 in spite of having what we would consider an off game.  He struggled badly with the deep pass in the preseason and again in this first game, but he's deadly accurate with the short stuff.  (And even the missed deep attempts helped to stretch the defense.)

(3) The Falcons racked up four sacks on defense - and all were by defensive linemen.  The six and seven man blitz packages weren't needed.  The front four were able to generate pressure all by themselves.   If they can keep that up, allowing the LBs and safeties to defend their zones, this defense will be outright scary by the end of the year.

(4) They didn't give up the big play.  Miami had only seven plays that went for more than 10 yards, and only two for more than 20 yards.  Both of those were 21 yards.  (And one of them was that trick double pass thing.)

(5) The Falcons absolutely stuffed the Wildcat.  My tally showed 4 yards on 3 plays before the Dolphins essentially put that package on the shelf for the day.

(6) They also succeeded in defending the screen pass.  After repeatedly getting burned by screens throughout the preseason (including 94 yards on 4 screens in the first half by the Chargers), the Falcons held their own on several attempted screens by Miami.

And a few things that need work:

(7) Never mind the under 3 yard average by Michael Turner.  A more important problem is that he had 22 rushing attempts, which puts him on a pace for over 350 carries for the season.  That's too many.  Meanwhile, Jerious Norwood only had two rushing attempts, while Ovie Mughelli and Jason Snelling had none.  They need to do a much better job of spreading the load. 

(8) The offensive line gave up a pair of sacks and allowed pressure on a few other plays.  The first sack was purely a miscommunication.  They'll get it together pretty quickly, but they're not where they need to be quite yet.

(9) Atlanta's secondary had zero passes defended.  (The entire team had two - one by Mike Peterson and one by Jamaal Anderson.)  That's okay against the Dolphin receiving corps, but they'll need to step it up when they face the likes of Wes Welker, Joey Galloway, Ben Watson and Randy Moss in week 3 against the Patriots.  By contrast, Miami's DBs broke up several pass attempts by the Falcons. 

(10) The defense had good stats, but the old problem of defending the run up the middle against a three WR package is still there.  Miami simply didn't attempt it very often.  But three of Miami's top ten gains on offense were running plays, and all three were straight up the middle against the nickel defense.  (They were also by different ball carriers.  Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown each had a 14 yard gain, while Polite had a nine yarder.)


Posted on: July 24, 2009 5:59 pm
 

Great quote from Curtis Lofton

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.  



 
 
 
 
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