Posted on: January 14, 2010 6:39 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2010 6:45 pm
Quick recap... whenever you have a turnover in coaching staff, you also tend to have a larger than usual turnover in the roster, as players who were brought in for the previous staff might not fit the schemes of the new staff.
The Falcons went through that turnover in 2007 when Bobby Petrino jettisoned a significant number of Jim Mora's players and faced a repeat in 2008. You can't move forward, build and improve if you're having to constantly patch holes and replace large chunks of your team.
I put together a list of 12 players from the previous three drafts that I felt would be a litmus test for the new regime. If the coaching staff kept most of these players and they continued to develop, the Falcons would be in far better shape than the media imagined.
But if most of them failed to make the roster or tanked during the year, there would simply be too many holes to fill and we'd be in for another awful season. I pegged 8 players as the make or break point - 8 hits meant a good year, while 8 misses would be a disaster.
Here's the list, whether they hit or missed in 2008, and also how they stand after 2009:
1. Jamaal Anderson (1st round, 2007). 2008 result: MISS. Not much explanation needed. While he did all the dirty jobs the coaching staff asked of him and won praise from Smitty and from John Abraham, he was still too young and too inexperienced to matter at all at DE.
How he stands now: if the team adds one more solid DE prospect or free agent, he'll probably be in competition with Chauncey Davis just to hang on to a backup roster spot.
2. Jonathan Babineaux (2nd round, 2005). 2008 result: HIT. His stats weren't quite as good as 2007, but he stepped up and became a full time starter and never missed a game in spite of playing much of the season banged up.
How he stands now: he was hands down our best defensive lineman in 2009, but he's facing a near-certain suspension of at least four weeks in 2010, and possibly longer.
3. Martrez Milner (4th round, 2007). Other than Jamaal, this was the pick that had me screaming at the TV during that draft. He may have fit Petrino's mold, but he was far from the best TE on the board at the time.
2008 result: MISS. He fell out of favor with the new coaching staff over the summer and was quickly released.
4. Jerious Norwood (3rd round, 2006). 2008 result: HIT. As the #2 running back, he had 828 yards from scrimmage and also became the team's kick returner. Can't ask for better than that.
How he stands now: he stands to be a restricted free agent, but he'll become a true free agent if the union gives in and we get a new CBA before March 5. The coaching staff still likes his ability, but he's losing favor with fans over his lack of durability. (My take: keep him, but note that we really need five RB/FBs on the roster rather than just four.)
5. Justin Blalock (2nd round, 2007). Was made an instant starter by the previous coaching staff but struggled as a rookie without a consistent partner at tackle.
2008 result: HIT. He held onto his starting position, and the line allowed just 17 sacks while driving the league's second ranked rushing attack. No problems there.
How he stands now: nobody seems to be eager to move him or replace him anymore. He's getting it done - and still getting better. (It helps that he's finally learned how to pick up a stunt.)
6. Laurent Robinson (3rd round, 2007). 2008 result: MISS. He got banged up in preseason, and the time on the sidelines didn't help. He lasted only five quarters before he tweaked his hamstring, tried to return too soon and hurt it again to end his season. (We got an eerie sense of deja vu watching William Moore in 2009. Hopefully things will work out better with Moore in 2010.)
How he stands now: we gave him away to the Rams. He became their leading receiver before getting hurt again this year. They'll love him in St. Louis, if they can keep him on the field.
7. Chris Houston (2nd round plus extra pick used in trade, 2007). 2008 result: HIT. He became a full starter and played well enough to make us forget about DeAngelo Hall.
How he stands now: he didn't progress well in 2009 and may have lost his starting job. With only one season remaining on his contract anyway, he's facing a make or break year - if he's on the roster at all.
8. Quinn Ojinnaka (5th round, 2006). 2008 result: HIT. He didn't start, but he was solid as a backup. He demonstrated that he could play all five positions on the line if needed and did well when called to fill in at left tackle when both Sam Baker and Todd Weiner were banged up.
How he stands now: another player caught in the CBA trap. It will be interesting to see if he still fits into Smitty's long term plans. He's best at tackle, but this season Atlanta added two more tackles (Will Svitek and Garrett Reynolds) and used Ojinnaka at guard. If Atlanta picks up another interior lineman, The Mighty Quinn might soon be the tenth player in a nine man unit.
9. Jimmy Williams (2nd round plus extra pick used in trade, 2006). I almost left him off the list since he fell out of the team's plans even in 2007, but with two draft picks tied up in him, he was too significant an investment to ignore.
2008 result: MISS. He showed up overweight for minicamp and was a "message" cut even before training camp began.
10. Chauncey Davis (4th round, 2005). 2008 result: HIT. He had 38 total tackles and 4 sacks as a backup, earning a nice new contract and stirring up talk that he should be starting ahead of Jamaal.
How he stands now: in jeopardy. He didn't live up to that fat new contract, failing to beat out Jamaal for the starting job and putting up disappointing numbers this year. Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury are strong threats to move ahead of him on the depth chart. If the coaching staff makes another "message" cut this year (like Williams in 2008 or Kindal Moorehead and Simon Fraser in 2009), he and/or Jamaal may be the sacrificial lambs.
11. Adam Jennings (6th round, 2006). He almost got left off the list since a sixth round pick isn't all that much of an investment. But Petrino wanted to clear a roster spot, making Jennings the return man and ditching Allen Rossum. That raised the stakes a bit.
2008 result: MISS. It's a shame that the final straw came on an awful call by the refs, but he wasn't getting it done as a return man. He still had potential as a backup WR - he had six receptions in two games with Chris Redman at QB late in 2007, with a 10+ yard per catch average. But like Laurent Robinson, he didn't fit the mold of the current staff, so sooner or later he probably would have been shown the door anyway.
12. Stephen Nicholas (4th round, 2007). 2008 result: HIT. He was projected as a starter even in 2008, but that changed when the coaching staff decided to move Keith Brooking back to the weak side. That limited his role to special teams, but he played well and continued his development, which gave the coaches full confidence to use him this season.
How he stands now: a starter and an emerging player with good sideline to sideline range.
That's seven hits and five misses out of the dozen. It didn't quite reach my goal of eight hits, but several undrafted players (particularly Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, followed by Brent Grimes and seventh rounder Jason Snelling in 2009) plus the large 2008 draft class gave the team a boost.
Even now, enough of that young 2007 roster remains with the team that Dimitroff can now use free agency and draft picks purely to build for the future and to upgrade an already strong lineup. With Brian Williams as the only starter becoming an unrestricted free agent without a new CBA, the Falcons have zero true holes to fill.
It's going to be a fun offseason...
Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am
The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped. The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.
The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time. For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency. Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents. Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents. But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.
The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year. And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency. So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.
Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts. There are several levels of tenders. If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away. At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.
Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player. It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.
According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected. These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal.
Here's the list:
Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.
Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.
Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.
Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.
Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.
Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.
Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.
Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.
Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.
Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.
Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.
Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.
Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.
Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.
Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.
Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.
Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.
Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.
New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.
New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.
New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.
New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.
Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.
Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.
Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.
San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.
Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.
San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.
St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.
Tennessee Titans - DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.
Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Tags: Ashton Youboty, Atlanta, Bears, Bills, Braylon Edwards, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Carlos Rogers, Carnell Williams, Chargers, Charlie Peprah, Chiefs, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Danieal Manning, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Gerald Sensabaugh, Giants, Harvey Dahl, Jamaal Fudge, Jerious Norwood, Jets, Kevin Dockery, LenDale White, Lions, Michael Kownwn, Miles Austin, Packers, Panthers, Quinn Ojinnaka, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Ronnie Brown, Saints, Seahawks, Shawne Merriman, Texans, Titans, Tyson Clabo, Vikings
Posted on: November 1, 2009 1:20 pm
first a quick recap of the injury reports this week:
Jerious Norwood still isn't practicing. Antoine Harris (knee) and Ovie Mughelli (calf) did get back onto the practice field but were limited all week.
The bad news is the rest of the list - Jason Snelling (hamstring) and Thomas Johnson (calf) were both out all week, while Jonathan Babineaux (ankle), John Abraham (foot) and Chris Owens (shoulder) were limited all week. Sam Baker tweaked his ankle in practice and was limited on Fri/Sat. Kroy Biermann hurt his neck in practice on Friday and missed practice yesterday.
That's ten Falcons including five starters who are officially listed as QUESTIONABLE for the game against the Saints. The team is even more banged up now than they were heading into the game against the Cowboys. Tony Gilbert and Mike Schneck were also on the injury report but were not limited in practice and are PROBABLE.
The main "coin flip" cases will be Biermann and Ovie. The team thinks they'll be available but won't get final clearance on either of them until late tomorrow afternoon. If they're cleared to play, they'll be on the active list - even if they're extremely limited.
Best guesses on everyone else: Norwood and Snelling will not play. Verron Haynes might even start, and we'll get a really good look at Aaron Stecker. Abraham, Babs and Baker will all play and will all start. Thomas Johnson will be out. Trey Lewis will start, Vance Walker will get his first career game backing up Babs, and we'll see more of Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis sliding into the middle in pass rush situations. Antoine Harris is close but will be held out again this week. Owens will probably be available, but (partly depending on Biermann) the team may choose to sit him and play Spencer Adkins for special teams instead. Schneck and Gilbert will play.
Posted on: October 19, 2009 2:30 pm
The Falcons come off an 11-5 season under their new coach and new GM, and they start the year with a scorching hot 6-2 record.
Yes, I know they've only played five games and are now 4-1. That was a flashback to 2005. The problem then was that injuries were building up throughout that early run. And by midseason, a whole lot of backups (and in some cases, backups to the backups) were getting a whole lot of playing time.
The result... the Falcons won only two games in the second half of the season and finished 8-8, missing the playoffs.
This year's initial roster had much better depth. But you can only go two or three deep at any position when you're limited to a 53-man total and a 45-man game day active roster. So regardless of how deep you are coming out of the gate, if you get multiple injuries at one position, it's a problem.
This year, the Falcons had their bye in week four. Atlanta is now two weeks into a stretch of thirteen straight games without a rest. And the injuries are starting to pile up.
It didn't get as much attention as when Brian Williams or Jerious Norwood went out, but Atlanta also lost backup safety William Moore... again. Moore left the game with another hamstring problem. It's turning into the same situation the team had with Laurent Robinson last year. Robinson played well in 2008 - for a grand total of five quarters at WR. But he missed a lot of preseason and early season action with an injury, then tweaked his hamstring, and then re-injured it the moment he returned to practice. Now it's happening with Moore. Hopefully the Falcons won't give up on their second round DB and give him away in a bad trade the way they did their third round WR.
The catch - Antoine Harris is still out with his knee injury, not practicing at all last week. So the Falcons don't have a healthy backup safety on the roster at all. And the main guy who would sub at safety in an emergency... Brian Williams. Uh oh.
The usual practice is for the team to wait until Wednesday to talk about the extent of injuries, since that's when the first official injury report of the week gets released. It also fits the team's regular schedule, since the injured players would normally spend most of the day with medical staff. Smitty wouldn't have the latest info until after he meets with the media. (That's by design - it's simple to deflect questions when you really don't have any info.) And Tuesday is the team's day off, so the Wednesday afternoon Q&A after practice is the first time the word gets out.
But this week may be treated a little differently since the trade deadline is tomorrow. The team's own front office absolutely HAS to know ASAP if Norwood and Williams will be out for the year or an extended time so that they can have a day to work the phones and make a deal if needed. And if Smitty has that info (or if Daryl Ledbetter or another writer thinks about it and manages to corner Dimitroff), the team is usually pretty good about at least summarizing it.
So there's a chance we'll hear something after this afternoon's press time - especially if it's really bad news.
Now for a little what-if...
(a) suppose Norwood's hip flexor thing is major and he's headed to IR. The option that would probably be the fan favorite is that Thomas Brown is still available. While Mughelli is out, that would leave the team with a four-back group similar to last year. Verron Haynes would be the principal fullback with Jason Snelling doing double-duty as backup RB and backup FB. Brown would take Norwood's spot as a backup RB.
(b) if Brian Williams is gone, the CB situation isn't that much of a problem. The team is already carrying six CBs on the roster anyway. We'd be back to Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, and Chevis Jackson as the main three. That's what the team was planning to do all along anyway. And if those three struggle, it's still only a matter of time before Tye Hill is ready for action. Domonique Foxworth became a starter in week eight last year.
The real question is what to do at safety without Williams being available. Moore is banged up. Harris is banged up. William Middleton cross-trained at safety, but he's now with the Jaguars. Lawyer Milloy is now with the Seahawks.
At this point, it might be for the best if Moore's hamstring problem is serious enough for the team to put him on the shelf for the year. It's clear he won't be playing in the secondary anytime soon. If he's healthy, he can work special teams. But considering he missed all but one week of training camp, all of preseason, has had only three weeks of full participation in practice, and is out from practice again for the forseeable future, it's hard to imagine the team would give him the responsibility of being the last line of defense in the backfield anytime in 2009.
If he's on the shelf (by that I mean if the team puts him on IR), that would free up the roster spot for someone else who really could play the defensive backfield if necessary.
The three names that come to mind right away are the three Falcons who didn't make the final roster cut. That's intentional - it's not that I'm playing favorites, but that if you need a guy who could step in immediately, the obvious choice is someone who spent all training camp and preseason in your system. The good news is that they're all available.
Jamaal Fudge also knows Smitty's defenses after playing for Smith and DB coach Alvin Reynolds in Jacksonville. And he was the guy Smitty turned to last year when Lawyer Milloy was too banged up to play the final regular season game. He'd be the most likely candidate.
Von Hutchins is still available too. He wasn't healthy enough for full duty in the secondary during preseason, but he was getting really close. He's had two more months to recover, while everyone else in the league has had two months of contact to get banged up. If he's now back to about 90%, that would put him roughly on par with everyone else. He'd be capable of being a backup. Keep in mind that half his career starts were at safety rather than CB, and that he got more playing time at safety in camp this year than at CB anyway. He's had the reps. He'd be a strong choice - if he's physically up to playing condition.
The other issue was that he signed a pretty big free agent contract here before the 2008 season. It would have been tough for the team to carry his base salary purely as a backup role - especially if he couldn't beat out Grimes or Jackson for the nickel corner job. But that's out of the way now. The team is free to re-sign him to a smaller contract that will fit within the salary cap.
And I said there were three ex-Falcons... the third is Eric Brock, the camp walk-on who made the practice squad and ended the season on the roster last year. Even if the team re-signed Fudge or Hutchins or made a trade for another safety, they should still consider bringing Brock back to the practice squad ASAP. They need the depth.
Posted on: September 24, 2009 4:59 pm
Don't expect to see Jerious Norwood on the field this weekend. He hasn't practiced all week. Otherwise, everyone is fully participating. The remaining Falcons are essentially at full health.
For the Patriots, Wes Welker did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee problem and was limited today. Jerod Mayo is still out from his own knee situation. The Patriots haven't given out any information on how long Mayo is expected to be sidelined, but I don't think the Falcons will see him on the field. New England has a bunch of other guys limited this week, but I'm guessing they'll all play - including Welker.
One positive side to the injury to Peria Jerry = Trey Lewis will DEFINITELY be on the 45-man active roster and in the rotation. The significance is that Lewis is the team's nose tackle for their 3-4 package. That part of the defensive playbook was put on the shelf for the first two games since the team elected to keep Lewis on the inactive list. But with Lewis on the field, the team can throw some blitzes at Tom Brady that the Pats will not have seen before from game film.
The alignment we might see: Lewis, Jonathan Babineaux and Jamaal Anderson in three point stances as the down linemen, with John Abraham and one of the linebackers rushing from the second level.
First guess at the inactive list = John Parker Wilson (third QB), William Moore (hamstring), Vance Walker, Jerious Norwood (head), Will Svitek, Garrett Reynolds, Spencer Adkins, Tye Hill.
At some point, Tye Hill and William Moore will replace other players on the active list (possibly Christopher Owens and Lawrence Sidbury), but there's a strong chance the Falcons will wait until after the bye to start working them. Moore is practicing, and I'm told he's at about 85-90% health - which is where a lot of players are after two weeks of full contact anyway. But he's still way behind on his reps and would be limited to special teams duty if he got on the field. There's not much advantage to putting him in and taking out one of the other guys from those units, so Moore is likely to stay on the inactive list for this game.
It's a lot closer with Hill. He's essentially ready for man coverage assignments. The question is whether he has the playbook down well enough to trust him with the zone schemes, where one slip can quickly become a touchdown for the opposing team. (Imagine him releasing Randy Moss to a safety who isn't there. Not a pretty thought...)
But considering the Patriots have three dangerous WRs and a dangerous tight end, it's possible that the Falcons will elect to go with more man coverage combined with blitz packages. (There isn't much to lose since Brady, Welker and Watson can rip the soft zone to shreds anyway.) If so, activating Hill would be a very good move. Personally, I'd start him in place of Chris Houston.
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 2, 2009 2:31 am
Since we just acquired a CB from the team we played the week before, it seemed pretty obvious to double check and see how well the guy did against us.
Executive summary: he did well in pass coverage, but he couldn't tackle a running back to save his life.
If by chance you still have a copy of the video (you DO record and save every single Falcons game, right?) here are the plays to review:
13:00 remaining Q1, 2nd and 3 at Rams 27 - Michael Turner runs around the right side for a 9 yard gain and a first down. Hill lined up on the defensive left/offensive right side, covering Roddy White. He attempted to tackle Turner but missed. (A CB attempting to bring down MT seems almost unfair, so it's hard to blame him too much for that one.)
7:20 Q1, 1st and 10 at ATL 30 - Hill has coverage on Roddy. The ball was thrown past them out of bounds. It's possible that Matt Ryan saw the coverage and threw it over their heads intentionally. Regardless, Hill was on Roddy like a suit. That one had almost zero chance of being caught.
4:14 Q1, 2nd and 10 at Rams 25 - Hill lines up on Michael Jenkins. The Rams did a lot of zone coverage, and it appears that Hill was on the outside zone on this play. When Jenkins broke to the middle, Hill let him go. Chris Long was the defender in coverage on him when Jenkins caught the short pass. (Or at least it appeared that way - if that play was supposed to be man coverage, Hill should have stayed with him. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn't his play.)
3:33 Q1, 1st and 10 at Rams 14 - Hill was the DB with the one-on-one coverage on Tony Gonzalez. TG gets the touchdown. Big surprise, huh? Hill was right there with Gonzalez, but the throw was positioned so that TG could fend him off. He did just that. Six points for Atlanta.
Trent Green said he loved to throw to TG in those situations, because NOBODY could beat Tony in single man coverage. The linebackers weren't quick/agile enough to keep up with him, and the DBs weren't big enough to avoid being screened out by him as Hill was on this play.
That was the ONLY pass that Atlanta completed against Hill. Ryan and Shockley only threw it his way twice, choosing to take on Bartell or Wade (the nickel corner) instead.
14:42 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 9 - Hill misses a tackle on Norwood. I can understand bouncing off of Michael Turner. But if you get your hands on Norwood, you ought to be able to get him down. Or at least hang on until help arrives.
13:57 Q2 - 2nd and 15 at ATL 19 - D.J. Shockley throws a pass to Marty Booker. Booker botches the catch, tipping the ball into the air. The refs say that James Laurinaitis made the interception. (Note - he didn't. The ball hit the ground, and Road Warrior Junior secured it on the short hop. I have no idea why Smitty didn't throw the red flag.)
Hill was NOT the one in coverage on Booker. He had the outside zone. But he was running in towards the ball and had as good a shot at it as Laurinaitis, who collided with him while making the "catch".
8:19 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 16 - Hill AGAIN misses a tackle on Norwood. This time Jerious put a pretty lame move on Hill and ran right past him. Hill didn't even attempt to make the hit.
And that was the last play where Hill had any significant involvement. Quick take: he was considered good enough by the Rams to start. He was good enough that the Falcons QBs went elsewhere on all but two throws, and he didn't allow separation on either of those.
So he had a nice game in coverage. Or at least he was better against us than our CBs were against the Rams, and far better than our guys were against the Chargers. Perhaps he really is an upgrade - as long as we're not counting on him to play run defense. That part of his game was ugly with a capital Ugh.
Posted on: August 8, 2009 12:03 am
First observation = wow, the place was packed. It was pretty obvious that there were more than 10,000 people there, and even at halftime there were more and more and more coming in the gates. Later, the attendance was announced at over 12,300 !!
They did kickoff / returns and FG drills before the scrimmage part got underway. Chandler Williams and Jerious Norwood had nice returns. Interesting sight = Peria Jerry on the kickoff return unit, forming a wedge.
Early on, the defense got the better of the offense. A series with the 1st team offense was stopped. Chris Redman later had a pass to Justin Peelle where Brent Grimes single-handedly made the strip, recovery, and return for a defensive TD.
My vote for THE play of the entire scrimmage was by safety prospect Eric Brock. He made a nice read to see (I think) Robert Ferguson breaking open. He closed in a heartbeat and timed the hit perfectly to separate the receiver from the ball. And then he plucked the ball out of the air for a pick. Obviously no replay, but I think it would go down as an interception rather than a fumble. (It would be his ball either way though, since he grabbed it before it hit the ground.) It was SWEET.
You KNEW that sooner or later Matt Ryan would hit Michael Jenkins for a long TD. They've been doing it in every single practice session. It came in Ryan's second series, with a 20+ yard pass over the middle for a touchdown. Chris Owens was the defender in coverage on that play.
The pass rush was disappointing - not sure if the rule to avoid hitting the QB had something to do with it. But the one nice pass rush was by everyone's favorite lineman, Jamaal Anderson. Jamaal flushed Redman from the pocket and forced him to throw the ball away.
Not much happening early in the second "half". The scrimmage was scheduled for ten series, with each QB getting at least two drives. Pretty much everyone seems to be playing at least a little bit. I didn't have a notepad with me, so I wasn't able to track the O-linemen and D-linemen as I would have wanted. But I know that Fudge and Hutchins got snaps at safety, Owens and Glenn Sharpe got reps at corner, Vance Walker got time at DT, Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis, Spencer Adkins, Robert James, etc were all in rotations. The goal of this thing was to get "game" film to evaluate players, so as many people as possible got as many reps as possible.
In his final series (9th of 10), Redman threw an interception that was caught by Tony Gilbert. I missed who the intended receiver was. (Gilbert has been practicing with the first unit offense this week in Curtis Lofton's place. Lofton is expected back in practice early next week.)
In the 10th and presumably final series, D.J. Shockley hit Hartsock for a first down. The next play was a handoff that had a penalty on the defense. Shockley later hit Chandler Williams to get inside the red zone. Coy Wire had great penetration to stop Thomas Brown for a loss. (The coaches had the Bulldog backfield for this drive - Shockley at QB, Brown at RB, and Verron Haynes at FB. All are ex-UGA.) After that, it was run, run, run (like I said - Bulldog backfield...) until Brown scored the TD.
BUT... the show isn't over yet. Smitty calls for more, with John Parker Wilson running every series of "overtime". He hit Peelle for roughly 17 yards over the middle with a really nice throw. I've seen him hit Keith Zinger several times on this exact route in practices this week, so he's obviously already comfortable with that play even though he has to thread the needle to make that throw.
The next snap looked like a busted play. Not sure what was supposed to happen, but Wilson intentionally threw it away. I noted this one because it was a good decision by a rookie QB in a clutch situation. Otherwise it was a non-event.
A little later, Norwood broke loose and took it inside the 15. Wilson hit Brown at about the 10, but the drive bogged down there.
Smitty kept them going. The next series wasn't a good one for JPW. He tried to throw into traffic on the run and was lucky it wasn't picked off - I'm sure he heard about it immediately and will cringe when he sees it in the film room this week.
Verron Haynes had a nice run on a toss sweep, and then Wilson hit Zinger - just like in practice, except that this time Zinger was allowed to show his stuff. He looked like Mike Alstott (insert Chris Berman "rumblin', stumblin" on the highlight reel) breaking tackles and taking it inside the 3. Smitty ended the scrimmage then.
OFFICIALLY, the offense barely edged out the defense in the final score. But the defense got the better of it for most of the night, and the offense ended up taking it during the unscheduled extra three series. So take it with a grain of salt - the defense held their own.
The linebackers looked really good. I wasn't all that hot on the D-line, though I did note that there wasn't much success running up the middle. The big runs were all to the outsides. Now if they can improve the pass rush, they'll have something...
Aaron Kelly didn't have much action in terms of receiving, but he did have some blocking opportunities on run plays. That (along with special teams during the preseason games) will go a long way towards helping him make the roster. Chandler Williams had the nice reception from Shockley plus a great showing as a kick returner. They're both making pretty good arguments for keeping six receivers on the roster.
The safeties looked pretty good, but I'm not sure why Chris Owens didn't have deep help on the TD pass from Ryan to Jenkins.
Ryan looked solid. My favorite play from him was a quarterback keeper on the very first series. Mixed grades on Redman - one of the turnovers wasn't his fault, but the other was one he'd want back. Shockley's first series wasn't much, but he did a fine job with that final "regular" series. His passes were dead on the money. And JPW didn't look anything special during the regular drives, but he did a fine job in the extra time at the end. He hasn't had many reps in the 11 on 11 portions of practices, so it makes sense that he'd get into more of a rhythm with the extra snaps. And he's helping turn Keith Zinger into one of the stars of training camp.
The simulation at Roam The Dome will reportedly be without pads, so this was the closest thing we'll see to a game until next weekend's action. I'm looking forward to it...