Tag:Domonique Foxworth
Posted on: September 12, 2009 6:43 pm

First look at 2010 compensatory draft picks

The Atlanta Falcons gave up their 2010 seventh round draft pick to the Rams for Tye Hill.  They had earlier given up their second round pick to the Chiefs for Tony Gonzalez.

But in addition to the regular seven draft picks per team, the league also awards 32 compensatory draft picks to offset player losses due to free agency.  The league has a proprietary (translation:  secret) formula it uses to determine which free agents count and in what rounds the resulting compensatory draft picks will fall.

Some keys:  not every player counts.  The secret formula includes factors such as salary, playing time, postseason results and other awards/honors - with both the old and new teams.  Reverse engineering of the formula has found that by far the biggest factor is the salary received with the new team.

Also, only players that are true unrestricted free agents and who sign with their new team during the unrestricted free agency period count.  The signing period typically starts March 1 and runs through July, subject to minor calendar-related adjustments.  (This year's period opened on Feb 27 and ended July 27.)

Players who were released by their former clubs do not count.  Players who sign after June 1 that were not tendered offers by their former clubs also do not count.

Compensatory picks are based on NET loss of free agents.  If you lose four players that count to other teams but sign three, you have a net loss of one compensatory free agent.  You would typically expect to receive one compensatory pick.

No matter how many players you lose, you can receive at most four compensatory picks.

The formula places values on the players as well as counting them.  It's possible to get an extra pick if you sign the same number of guys as you lose - if the value of the guys you lose is much greater than the value of the ones you sign.  But the picks awarded this way will only be late seventh rounders.

Also note that there are always 32 and only 32 picks awarded.  If the formula determines that more than 32 are deserved, only the highest ranking 32 will be awarded.  If the formula comes up short, the remaining picks will be given to the teams that would be selecting first if there were an eighth round of the draft.  (That happened this year - and the Raiders and Chiefs got the final two picks of the draft as a result.)

It can get a little fuzzy as to which free agents count and which don't, and in what rounds the resulting picks will fall.  The key factor appears to be the salary with the new team.  Best guess =  guys with salaries below $800k will not count at all.  Guys above $900k probably will.  For the ones right in that $800-900k territory, playing time will decide it.


Here are the Falcons players, both coming and going, and how they might affect the Falcons draft in 2010:

Mike Peterson -  reportedly signed for 2 years, $6.6 million.  He counts as a player signed by Atlanta and will have a value around the 6th round.

Grady Jackson - reportedly signed a 3 year deal with the Lions for $8 million.  (Congratulations to the big man.  Falcons fans wanted him back, but we can understand our team not competing with that kind of offer.)   Best guess is he'll count as a seventh rounder, but he may be on the borderline of the 6th round..

Lawyer Milloy - will not count.  He signed with the Seahawks far too late.  (The idea is that these extra picks offset your losses in free agency.  If you don't even bother to tender him an offer, you didn't really lose him.  You threw him away.)

Brett Romberg - apparently signed a two year deal at an average of $800k per year.  The salary should be too low to count, and even if it's close, he's not a starter.  Unless someone gets hurt, he won't play enough snaps to count at all.

Verron Haynes - was out of the league last year.  Does not count.

Will Svitek - was released by the Chiefs last year.  Does not count.

Domonique Foxworth - signed a 4 year, $27 million deal with the Ravens.  My best guess is that he'll count as a 4th rounder, but there's a possibility he'll end up counting for a 3rd round pick.

Keith Brooking - signed a 3 year, $6 million deal with the Cowboys.  I think the borderline between 6th and 7th round picks will be around $2.5 million per year, so I suspect Brooking will count as a 7th rounder.

Michael Boley - signed a 5 year, 25 million deal with the Giants.  He'll be right around the borderline between a 4th and 5th.  I'll be optimistic and say a 4th, but playing time could drop him to the 5th - so root for him to start every game after this week and play nearly every snap.

Jeremy Newberry - signed June 15, then retired.  I'm 99% certain he doesn't count.

Marty Booker - signed in August.  Does not count.  (Ditto for Robert Ferguson and Jamie Winborn.)

I see four players who left Atlanta that will count and only one incoming player.  The Mike Peterson signing will offset the Grady Jackson loss, leaving Atlanta three compensatory picks:  a fourth rounder, a second fourth rounder or fifth rounder, and a seventh rounder.

We'll still feel the impact of losing the 2nd rounder in the Tony Gonzalez trade, but with potentially two extra picks coming at the end of round four, the Falcons still have the freedom to trade their own 5th and/or 6th round picks for extra help if needed.

Posted on: November 30, 2008 11:35 am

looking ahead to 2009

As the 2008 regular season winds down, more and more posts on the Falcons message board are looking ahead to free agency and the draft, sizing up the team's likely targets and areas of need.

One key thing to remember:  this is one of the youngest teams in the NFL this decade, not just this season.  The Falcons have 31 players - including 11 starters - that are age 26 or younger.  This is important for two reasons. First, many of these young guys are still developing and will improve naturally with experience.  A few areas that might be perceived as weak points for the team may not be liabilities next season.  Those positions wouldn't necessarily be targets for the draft, because the newly drafted players would have to go through the same growing pains as our current players did last year and this year.

Second, every player coming in next season will have to replace someone currently on the roster. We don't have a whole lot of guys who are likely to retire, we really don't have that many free agents in key roles, and Dimitroff is working to sign our potential free agents early to avoid having them hit the open market. The team will have quite a few currently injured guys returning, plus we have more solid prospects on our practice squad than most teams. I'm expecting at least 10 players from those lists to be with the Falcons in minicamp next season and competing for roster spots.

So if you'd like to play GM and start designing your 2009 roster, keep those players in mind.

Here's a rundown by unit:

Quarterback:  Ryan, Redman, Shockley.  No issues there at all, and all three are under contract for 2009.  Feels nice, doesn't it?  One catch - both Redman and Shockley are free agents after next season. Expect the team to pick up a fourth guy for camp next year to compete with them and perhaps a developmental project for the practice squad.

Running back / fullback:  Turner, Mughelli, Norwood, Snelling, Brown, Barclay.  The team is likely to carry five players in this unit.  Snelling was a hybrid RB/FB who dropped some weight this season to focus on the RB role - but ended up with the FB#2 duty as well as the RB#3 role.  With Brown returning, he may bulk back up to focus on fullback.

Receiver / tight end:  White, Jenkins, Hartsock, Robinson, Douglas, Peelle, Finneran, Zinger, Rader, Weems, Chandler Williams, Noriaki Kinoshita.  The WR side of this unit is loaded with Jenkins already re-signed.  The only question is whether the team will keep five or six on the roster next season. 

Tight end will be a significant issue.  The team doesn't have a true receiving tight end, and Mularkey will likely want an upgrade for a blocker.  Note that Peelle is a free agent at the end of the season.  Zinger, like all practice squad players, is a free agent even now.  Rader is a stop-gap who is in his third stint with the team this season.  Best guess:  the team will aim for three TEs on the roster next season.  Re-signing Peelle is likely but won't be considered a top priority.  Likely scenario = Hartsock + drafted TE + Peelle.

Offensive line:  Baker, Blalock, McClure, Dahl, Clabo, Ojinnaka, Wilkerson, Stepanovich, Weiner, Batiste, Foster, McCoy. Wilkerson (center/guard) is a free agent, while Dahl and Clabo are restricted free agents. Gandy will also be available if needed but isn't likely to return.

This unit has a lot of what-ifs.  Let's simplify it with a kind of worst-case scenario. Suppose that Clabo, Dahl, and Wilkerson all sign elsewhere. In that case, the Falcons still have Baker, Blalock, and McClure starting on the left side and at center, with Stepanovich holding down the backup center role.

Weiner has played fairly well in spite of being far from 100% back from his rehab. He'll be better next season after another winter of rest and rehab.  Ojinnaka can play either guard spot or either tackle spot and is ready to step up as a starter. Batiste, Foster, and McCoy would all challenge for the first-unit jobs.

That's nine solid prospects already in house.  The team would be in pretty good shape even without anyone else.  If we could hang on to at least one of Clabo or Dahl, it would be a sweet bonus. The coaching staff may elect to bring in someone new via free agency or the draft to add competition, but it certainly shouldn't be considered a weakness or a top priority. 

Defensive end:  Abraham, Anderson, Davis, Biermann, Fraser, Evans.  Abraham, Anderson, and Biermann appear to be locks.  Chauncey Davis is a free agent.  He'll get attention from other teams, and keeping him may be difficult if he isn't signed before he hits the open market on March 1. Evans is a practice squad prospect hoping to break through and win a regular roster spot as a backup. 

A late rounder here for competition is a strong possibility, but the spot might also be handled on the cheap in free agency. In particular, if Brandon Miller becomes available again at the end of the season, there's a strong chance Atlanta will bring him back.

Defensive tackle:  Babineaux, Moorehead, Lewis, Jefferson, Parker, Grady Jackson.  The nose tackle will be a high priority position for this offseason.  The team is well stocked at UT with Babineaux and Moorehead.  But with Grady likely to retire (and not capable of playing every down even if he returns), the team needs answers in the form of run-stuffing big men.  Lewis may become the starter, but that still leaves an opening as his backup. 

The only in-house candidate is practice squad signing J'Vonne Parker.  It's possible that they may be the guys for the job, but Vital and Dimitroff are almost certain to bring in some new blood.  I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating. For Smitty's defensive scheme to work here, we have to have the big men in place.  We don't necessarily have to have a 350-pound Jabba The Lineman, but a pair of guys in the 320 ballpark would help the entire defense.

At the moment, when Grady is off the field we have nobody on the line that even tops 300.  In run situations, the opposing offense can match up one on one on our linemen, leaving one offensive lineman plus a tight end and a lead blocker free to block the linebackers.  That's a big part of why our safeties lead the team in tackles.  It puts extra pressure on the safeties to make plays against the run, which leaves them vulnerable to play fakes.  That in turn leaves the corners vulnerable.  We've had a lot of big play passes against us where the young corners appeared to have been burned but were actually playing their double coverage assignments - expecting help from safeties who weren't there.  It may seem odd, but a key to getting improved play from Brooking, Boley, Coleman, Grimes, Houston, and Chevis Jackson is to get the nose tackle resolved so that everybody else can focus on their own jobs rather than having to cover for our lack of size in the middle of the front line.

Linebacker:  Boley, Lofton, Brooking, Nicholas, Wire, Gilbert, James. The only four bodies locked in for 2009 are Brooking, Lofton, Nicholas, and James. The team has not kept a linebacker on the practice squad at all this season.  James returns from IR next season, but he's a prospect that hasn't played a single snap.  He'll be the equivalent of a newly drafted player.    

Suffice to say this unit will need extra depth even if Boley re-signs. Wire has played well and can also play safety in an emergency.  Look for the team to try to retain him.

Secondary:  Houston, Foxworth, Hutchins, Jackson, Grimes, Irons, Coleman, Milloy, Decoud, Harris, Fudge, Brock, Sharpe.  This will be an interesting unit to watch.  It is overloaded with bodies already, but there are still depth issues. Milloy and Foxworth are free agents while Fudge is a restricted free agent. Hutchins will return from IR, making the CB side very crowded.  The wild card is Foxworth.  He was acquired mainly as an insurance policy but has quickly developed into our best defender.  If the team can re-sign him, the primary CB spots will be held by Houston, Foxworth, and Hutchins at the start of minicamp, with Jackson, Grimes and Irons competing to take those jobs away and also to hang on to what will probably be two roster spots.  Someone will have to go even if the team doesn't pick up anyone new in free agency.

Safety will be the greater concern.  The team drafted Decoud to groom as the heir apparent to Milloy, and they already released Daren Stone and Deke Cooper to save a roster spot for the third rounder.  The whisper in the wind is that he probably won't be ready to step in as a starter next season. That makes it more likely the team will give Milloy an extension or bring in another safety, probably via free agency rather than the draft. And just like at cornerback, the wild card is Foxworth. The coaches may try to solve several problems at once by moving him to safety. 

Specialists:  Elam, Koenen, Schneck.  Koenen will be a free agent.  He is one of the more precise and reliable punters out there, and since he also kicks off, the team is very likely to re-sign him rather than try to replace him.


Posted on: November 10, 2008 6:01 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2008 9:32 pm

New Falcon #1 CB - and it isn't DeAngelo...

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...

Posted on: November 6, 2008 3:15 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2008 5:33 pm

early notes for the Saints game

THE BAD NEWS for fans of both teams:   FOX has assigned our old pals Ron Pitts and Tony Boselli to broadcast the game.   (Saints fans -  I apologize in advance and suggest that you keep a radio handy.)

For New Orleans, Reggie Bush does not expect to play.  At this point, it appears Jeremy Shockey will play.

For Atlanta, Sam Baker is almost certainly out (it's not *official* yet) but everyone else is in reasonable shape.  Grimes, Grady Jackson, and Weiner are still nursing bad knees.  Snelling has been sick.  

Domonique Foxworth is now listed as a starter in the press guide and the depth chart.   He's the most experienced cornerback on the roster, but since the team only acquired him in Week 1, the coaches needed time to get him up to speed on the defensive schemes. 

No word yet on which of Grimes or Chevis Jackson will play the nickel corner spot once Grimes is back to speed.

Still no word from the league on possible suspensions for Grady and several Saints players over that water pill investigation.  However, the players can appeal if a suspension is announced between now and Sunday, so they can all remain available for this weekend's game.

Also no word on who will return punts for Atlanta this weekend.  Coach Smith said he thought Harry Douglas did a nice job but that the team hasn't decided who will handle that job this weekend.   And for those who think Jennings may be headed out the door, here's a little extra fodder:   when asked about the WR corps, Smith named all of the receivers EXCEPT for Jennings.

FRIDAY UPDATE:   Reggie Bush and center Jonathan Goodwin are both out.  Sam Baker is now officially out for Atlanta.  Shockey will likely play.  The banged-up Falcons are all listed as "Questionable" -  which seems to be the standard practice this season.  They include Grimes, Grady Jackson, Weiner, and McClure.  Best guess is they'll all be available. 


Posted on: October 26, 2008 5:28 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2008 3:16 pm

Video review (pun intended) of the Eagles game

I know everyone will mostly want to talk / read / comment on the screwup by the officials that sealed the game for Philly.  So I'll start with that, just to get that 800-pound gorilla out of the way.

This is the 10th season since the return of the replay system, and it seems like this season has had the most controversial calls since that 1998 season that brought such a massive outcry over the poor officiating that the league had little choice but to bring back some form of video review.

But now that replay is back, here's the big question:  how much responsibility lies with the coaching staff?  Are the coaches to blame if they have no challenges remaining or no time outs?  Should it be standard practice to save that last time out until after the two minute warning, just in case yet another officiating crew makes yet another game-altering mistake?

If so, Mike Smith just made his first blunder as Falcon head coach.  He used Atlanta's final time out just before a Philadelphia punt in order to save as much time on the clock as possible for his offense.

The catch is that he did it outside of the two minute warning.  At that point, any reviews have to be initiated by the coaches.  So when the refs blew it on the punt, there was nothing more he could do than scream at the guys at the zebra suits.

I can't wait to hear what Mike Pereira has to say about the muff call by the officials.  Will he make any comment about the fact that Smith left himself "exposed" for half a minute by leaving himself without a time out?  Will the league try to shift some of the responsibility to the coaches?    I hope he won't.  Pereira is a class act, and the mind-blowing calls by Hochuli's crew, this crew, and others have had him scrambling to play defense all season.

Here's my take:  Pereira will acknowledge that the officials blew it.  The league will apologize to the Falcons for it.  And that will quite appropriately be the end of it.   Falcons lose.  End of story.   (Coach Smith already said there were a whole lot of other plays the team would like to have back.  He went out of his way to say that the bad call was not the difference in the game.)

I can't say I blame Smith at all for using the last time out when he did.  You're down by six points. The opposing team can burn 31 seconds if you don't call time out right now, and you'll be left with about 1:52 when you do get the ball. Should you save that last time out - and lose 31 seconds plus the clock stoppage at the two minute warning - just on the off chance that the refs will make a mind-blowing bad call?

The responsibility to get the calls right has to stand with the officials, not the coaches.  It was a freak thing, and it worked against Atlanta.  But it happens.  It happened earlier this season in San Diego.  The Falcons are moving on, as the Chargers did after that game against Denver.

Did it cost Atlanta the game?   Maybe.  Yes, there were other opportunities.  There are ALWAYS other opportunities.   But if the officials mandate that one team will arbitrarily give up a possession in good field position and that the other team will get an extra possession in excellent field position, that creates a significant and artificial disadvantage.  

But I suspect if the entire game were replayed, the Eagles would still win - and possibly by a larger margin.


Notes on specific plays: 

11:16 Q1, first Philadelphia play from scrimmage -  this was the first start, and for that matter the first extensive playing time at all, for Domonique Foxworth.  The Eagles went at him straight out of the gate with a deep pass. What I find noteworthy here is that the safety (Coleman) was late to get back and help out in coverage.  If you get a chance to see it on NFL Replay, check it out.  The receiver is BEHIND Coleman, who has his back to the ball the entire way as he's running to catch up with the play.

This is one of the problems Atlanta has had in allowing big plays all season long.  We're theoretically a cover two defense.  The cardinal rule is that the safeties should never allow receivers to get past them.

Atlanta fans were down on Brent Grimes after Green Bay threw a deep TD pass to Greg Jennings, but it was exactly the same situation - and even a similar route - as this play.  The cornerback had the outside position on the receiver and was expecting safety help deep inside.  That safety help wasn't there. 

In this case, the receiver wasn't able to hang on to the ball as he came down to the ground, saving Atlanta from giving up yet another big play.


5:29 Q1 -  Jamaal Anderson was chip-blocked by the receiver leaving the backfield, plus had two blockers on him.  He beat them all and got the sack.

15:00 Q2 -  after the Eagles convert a 3rd down with a long pass play, the announcers emphasized on the replay that Milloy bit and left a huge gap in the zone coverage.  What they didn't mention is that Stephen Nicholas got caught up in the underneath traffic and bumped on the crossing route, which allowed the receiver to get away from him for the completion.  I don't know if the play was designed to create that kind of a pick, but that was the outcome.

13:33 Q2 -  Lofton blitzed and forced a fumble. That also counts as a sack, so congratulations to Lofton for the first sack of his young career.   It's also noteworthy that the Falcons were more aggressive with their blitz calls, particularly in the first half, than they were in weeks 2 through 5.   They rarely blitzed against Green Bay and sent just three pass rushers after Aaron Rodgers seven times.   This time around, they blitzed more frequently, occasionally sending six men and even keeping no deep safeties on a few plays.   Jerry Glanville would have been proud.

13:24 Q2 -  Turner goes nowhere on a run on 2nd and 10.  Did the Eagles know what was coming?  They should have - it's a very strong Atlanta tendency. If the Falcons throw an incomplete pass on first down, they're running on second down.

12:47 Q2 -  yes, Roddy ended up catching both of Ryan's TD passes - for the first multiple TD game of his career, but up to this point he was having a game he'd rather forget.  The announcers called him out for his poor route running that helped create the first Philadelphia interception. (That's an advantage of winning a few games.  We finally get announcing teams that have a clue.)  He had the holding call downfield that cost the Falcons ten yards off of a big running play.  And on this third down play, he dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball.  That's three negatives against him in less than 18 minutes of football.

To his credit, he did try to take some heat away from Ryan after the game by claiming the second interception was on him and that he should have done more to break up the play.   That was quite generous.  Roddy did all he could, including interfering with the defender to try to break it up.  It was simply a horribly underthrown ball on the fade route.  That one was entirely on Ryan. 

12:30 Q2 -  McNabb makes an effective play-action fake and has plenty of time to throw the ball, but ends up dumping it off for just a 2 yard gain.  Nice job by the Falcon secondary to make sure all the deep targets were covered.

9:10 Q2 -  After a 1st down incompletion, the Falcons partially break from the run tendency I mentioned above.  They tried to set up a screen pass to beat the blitz.  It didn't work - again, probably because the Eagles were anticipating the run.  They didn't bite, so Ryan aborted the play and intentionally threw the ball into the ground at the RB's feet.

8:50 Q2 - the first Eagles play after the Atlanta touchdown is another example of how the cover two puts heavy responsibility on the safeties.  Brooking has coverage on the tight end through the short zone.  As the TE goes deeper and leaves his coverage zone, Brooking releases him to the safety (in this case, Milloy).  But the safety wasn't in place to break up the play, which went for a completion and a first down.

7:53 Q2 - the announcers emphasize the nice coverage on the punt by Sav Rocca.  Eagles fans already know this, but the Falcon fans might not.  Rocca is a former Australian Football League player.  I'm a huge Footy fan (and still celebrating that my favorite team, Hawthorn, just won its first premiereship in 17 years) so I'm happy to see Rocca having success in the NFL.

I'm surprised more AFL players haven't been brought to America to punt.  It was no accident that Rocca's punt bounced straight up.  That's something that a lot of AFL kickers can do.  If the coverage unit had let it go, it probably wouldn't have gone into the end zone anyway.  

6:28 Q2 -  Koenen answers with a boomer of his own, kicking one 53 yards from out of his own end zone.

4:53 Q2 -  On the previous 1st and 10 play, the Eagles once again tested Foxworth deep.   We'll never know how close a play it might have been, as the WR fell down.   On 2-10, they decide to go after the safeties.  I'll assume the receiver in question was Coleman's responsibility, as he was the closest defender to an otherwise wide open man.   The play went for a 22 yard completion for a first down.

2:30 Q2 -  the weakness in the middle of the D line is exposed yet again, as McNabb runs straight up the middle for the touchdown.  In this case, Jason Jefferson and Kindal Moorehead were the DTs on the field.  

In case you missed it the 20 or so times I've mentioned it on the Falcon message board, we're undersized on the defensive line.  Moorehead and Jefferson list at 299 and 295 pounds.  They were up against center Jamaal Jackson (330 pounds) and guards Todd Herremans (321 pounds) and Max Jean-Gilles (the ex-Georgia Bulldog, now up to 358 pounds).  That's 594 pounds of Falcon meat against 1009 pounds of Philly cheesesteaks.  

1:38 Q2 -  again Ryan throws the ball into the ground at the RB's feet to abort a doomed screen pass.  Kudos to Ryan for recognizing the bad situation.  But the Falcons need to do a better job of self scouting.  They have some pretty strong tendencies.

0:21 Q2 -  with Philly driving just before halftime, the Falcons mostly have the second unit D-line on the field.  For this play, Chauncey Davis and Kroy Biermann were on the ends, with Moorehead and Babineaux in the middle.  Brooking rushed from the linebacker position, but Davis dropped back into coverage so it was still just a regular 4 man rush.  McNabb picked on Coleman again, hitting Curtis for his first catch of the season.

0:15 Q2 -  on the next play, John Abraham rotated back in to replace Davis, who had just been running in pass coverage.  He gets to McNabb, but not before the ball had been thrown.   McNabb threw in Chris Houston's direction this time.  From the looks of the play, Houston seemed like he thought he'd have safety help from Lawyer Milloy.   Once the receiver passed through the shorter zone, he took the outside and short position in coverage.   

In other words, it might not be fair to say Houston was beaten.   This has happened with Grimes on several plays in previous games.  The corner takes one side of double coverage, but the safety isn't there on the other side as the corner expects.   The end result is an open receiver, a completed pass, and a corner who did everything he should have done but comes out looking foolish. 

Maybe it's a coaching issue, and the young corners simply aren't aware that they're the sole defenders.  Maybe it's a communication problem.  Or maybe the safeties are being stretched too thin by having heavy run responsibility in addition to deep coverage duties.  But the Falcons won't "arrive" as a top team until they solve the undersized line and overworked safety issues.

0:09 Q2 -  the Eagles take one shot at the end zone before kicking the field goal.  The play was a quick look and throw, as Philly couldn't risk a sack or take the time to check down several receivers.   If the target wasn't open, McNabb would throw it away.  The Eagles targeted Domonique Foxworth. 

Once again, Foxworth was on the spot, so McNabb threw it over everyone's head out of bounds.  Foxworth won't get credit for a pass defended in the official stats, but the coaching staff knows he saved the team four points.

14:15 Q3 -  on 2nd and 10, nickel corner Chevis Jackson blitzed.  McNabb saw it coming and threw to his receiver - who had a huge cushion to the safety - but missed.   McNabb had plenty of time on the following 3rd and 10 play and targeted Jackson's receiver for a 25 yard gain. 

11:30 Q3 -  Philly has 1st and 20 after a penalty.  This time, there was definitely a miscommunication in the secondary.  In the cover two scheme, the corners have responsibility for the outside zone.  The wide open man was Chris Houston's responsibility.

7:40 Q3 -  on the Falcon message board, fans have been brutal on Finneran for his drop and Adam Jennings for his alleged muff.   But on this play DeSean Jackson turned a fair catch opportunity into some significant NEGATIVE yardage.    It's not just Jennings.

And if you happen to see the game again (through NFL.com, for example), take a look at who was in coverage for Atlanta.  The gunner who forced Jackson to change course and run backwards was Brian Finneran, and the one who made the tackle was Adam Jennings.

3:27 Q3 - the Falcons line up in their 3 TE formation and spring Turner for a good run.  I note this play because I see this as the main area where Atlanta is hurt by not having Baker in the starting lineup.  With Baker at LT, backup tackle Todd Weiner is free to play as the second TE in unbalanced or multi-TE formations.  With Baker out, Weiner is pressed into duty on the line, making him unavailable for these packages. 

It's nice to see the Falcons can still use this lineup, but without Weiner as the sledgehammer at FB or TE, they don't do it often.   On this particular play, both McClure and right guard Harvey Dahl pulled.  They acted as the leads (as Weiner would have) on what was essentially a power sweep.

2:05 Q3 -  this McNabb pass for a first down is simply a good play design to beat the cover two.  The idea is to get multiple receivers through the short zone and into the areas where the safeties have primary coverage responsibility.   The safeties are simply outnumbered, with only two of them covering the entire width of the field.  A quick look or pump fake draws a safety to the side, and the pass goes to the middle.

The very next play again took advantage of our undersized backups on the defensive line.  Davis, Moorehead, Babineaux, and Biermann were the linemen on the field.   I mentioned that half ton in the middle of the Eagle line already.  But to add to that, the Philly tackles are 330 and 335 pounds.  Meanwhile, Davis and Biermann are 274 and 241 pounds. 

Is anyone surprised that the Eagles plowed right through our guys and sprang Westbrook up the middle for 18 yards?

15:00 Q4 -  in spite of constant blitzes from Philadelphia, the Falcons didn't give up a sack until the first play of the fourth quarter.  Put this one on Jerious Norwood.  He was in the backfield to help pick up the blitz, but he ran to his far right, leaving a free lane for the linebacker to come straight at Ryan completely unblocked.

7:57 Q4 - a bright spot for our D-line woes has been short yardage.  The Falcons had that amazing goal line stand against Chicago, which turned out to be a crucial factor in that game.   Atlanta has another big goal line stand.  Andy Reid elects to kick the field goal rather than go for it on fourth down.



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