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Tag:John Abraham
Posted on: March 17, 2012 4:21 pm
 

Falcons resign Abraham

I know everyone wanted Mario Williams or some other (younger) beast.  But let's get real -  we can't afford it.  I'm surprised we could even afford Abraham.  Apparently he came way down on his asking price. 



The bottom line on getting John Abraham back is that our pass rush will at least not be any worse than it was last year.  So should we still feel down about our defensive line?  

The coaching staff has told us that Ray Edwards played through injury all season and wasn't 100%.  At this point, comments from our coaching staff and front office don't carry as much weight as they did in 2008.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm ready to stop listening completely and blow off everything they say during the offseason.

But we know Edwards had knee surgery before last season (and missed training camp because of it), so that part of it is easy enough to believe.  Will he be another beast in 2012?  Probably not.  But he should be better this year than he was last year.  That part should be a minor upgrade.

I'd say the major upgrade is Mike Nolan.  Changes to the scheme will help all our defensive linemen.  Of course, that's the big unanswered question -  whether Nolan can get more out of Abraham, Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews than Brian VanGorder did. 

I frequently wanted to smash hotel TV screens watching BVG's idiotic blitz designs.  I can't help but think that whatever tweaks Nolan makes to the defense, they'll have to be improvements.  Smitty and Dimitroff both raved that "the arrow was up" with BVG. 

But then again, they poured massive resources into the defense for years, and the best that BVG could do was get the defense to middle of the pack - with a far below average pass rush.  So chalk all that praise up to simple kindness for those who have moved on.  That's Arthur Blank's way, and it's the way of his organization. 

Can Sidbury and Matthews step up?  El Sid finally got to play last year and excelled in limited playing time.  I'm looking forward to seeing how he does in Nolan's scheme.  The coaching staff was also stoked about Cliff Matthews in training camp last year.  But naturally, they stuck him on the inactive list even after he returned from his preseason injury, just like they had done with Sidbury in 2010.  It's rather difficult for these guys to pressure opposing QBs when they're stuck on the bench.

My take:  we actually DO have the pieces in place for a decent pass rush.  It's simply up to our new DC to put those pieces together and make it work. 

Two elements that I'm hoping we'll see in Nolan's scheme:  press coverage and the dime package.  Assuming we land another competent DB to pull off the dime package, both of those items could help Atlanta's defense significantly.

In particular, jamming receivers might do wonders for Kroy Biermann.  KB had been among the league leaders in QB hits and pressures in 2010, but he has remained one step shy of getting the QB on the ground.  If the DBs can prevent the receivers from getting into their routes cleanly, that buys an extra second for the pass rush to get to the QB.  (For those new to the board, that's the cornerstone principle behind the "Tampa Two" defense.)

It might also help Chris Owens.  Think back to his rookie season.  When injuries to Chris Houston and Brian Williams forced the team to start Brent Grimes and Owens, they had the kiddies play aggressively and press.  Owens stood out as an impressive rookie playing in that style.  But in 2010, the team went back to BVG's favorite pillow-soft cushions.  Give a slot receiver 8+ yards of open space, and all Owens could do was play follow-the-leader.  He was awful. 

He'll be playing the final year of his rookie contract this season, and his career is pretty much on the line.  Let him play the aggressive style that worked for him in college and in his rookie season here.



The benefit of the dime package would be that each eligible receiver (including TEs and RBs) would have a man lining up on him (which works hand in hand with press coverage), one extra safety would be in reserve over the top, and there would still be five defenders to rush the passer on a blitz.  Alternately, the team could go with a four man rush, assign the LB to the running back, and keep a second safety back for a standard cover two shell. 

This is a key element of the Texans defense.  They don't even bother with the nickel package.  They go straight from their base package to a dime package, with four defensive linemen, one linebacker, and the six DBs.  It was extremely effective for them last season.



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: August 19, 2010 6:41 am
 

Defensive personnel - Chiefs preseason game


For entire first half:

Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon at LB
Brent Grimes, Chris Owens at CB
Chevis Jackson as nickel CB
Erik Coleman, Thomas DeCoud at S

The Falcons played basic 4-3 (or 4-2-5 in nickel package) for the entire game.

Note... this time around, I kept the player numbers consistent to track the substitutions rather than keeping track of left side vs right side.  So the linemen aren't necessarily listed in order from left to right.

First defensive series

98 95 97 55
71 95 91 55
71 95 91 55

Second defensive series

98 95 97 55
98 95 97 55
71 95 91 55

(Babs and Abraham are done for the night)

Third defensive series

71 99 97 92 for eight plays
90 99 98 71 (3rd down, 6 man blitz, sack)

Fourth defensive series

71 91 98 90 for all six plays

Fifth defensive series

96 97 99 92
96 91 93 92
96 91 93 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 98 90
96 91 98 90
71 91 98 90 for six plays

(halftime)


Dominique Franks, Chevis Jackson at CB
Shann Schillinger, Rafael Bush at S
Spencer Adkins, Bear Woods, Robert James at LB
Chris Owens as the nickel CB
Stephen Nicholas played some LB in nickel package


Sixth defensive series

71 91 99 92
71 91 99 90
71 91 99 90
71 91 99 90

(note: Daylan Walker replaced Jackson for one play at CB)


Seventh defensive series

96 91 97 90 all four plays

Eighth defensive series

64 97 99 92
64 97 99 92
90 97 99 92

Ninth defensive series

90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 97 96
90 99 97 96

Tenth defensive series

Weston Johnson in at LB with Woods, Adkins

90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 99 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64 Rajon Henley dinged
90 97 93 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96





Jamaal Anderson played 18 snaps; 3 at DE and 15 at DT, all in the first half

Kroy Biermann played 28 snaps; 24 in first half
Lawrence Sidbury played 42 (!) snaps; 15 in first half
Chauncey Davis played 19 snaps; 15 in first half
Emmanuel Stephens played 26 snaps; 9 in first half
Rajon Henley played 8 snaps; 0 in first half

Corey Peters played 31 snaps; 23 in first half
Trey Lewis played 33 snaps; 12 in first half
Vance Walker played 33 snaps; 14 in first half
Thomas Johnson played 14 snaps; 2 in first half

note:  TJ wasn't 100% coming into the game; coaching staff intended to use him sparingly and in short rotations


Posted on: April 30, 2010 6:04 pm
 

first look at the pass rush

Smitty and Dimitroff both commented at the Combine that they liked the personnel they had on the ends and attributed part of the problem with the pass rush to Peria Jerry getting hurt.

We know that Peria Jerry alone can't be the plan for improving our dismal (one of the bottom five in the league) pass rush.  So what else do we have to look forward to this season?

I don't believe that the cornerback play buys more time for the pass rush.  (D-Led and I are on opposite sides of the fence on that one.)  The problem is that if the primary receivers aren't open, the QB turns to the TE or the dump-off to the RB.  We got torched more in the gaps between the LB and safety zones last year than we did by wideouts against our cornerbacks.

But there's another way Dunta Robinson can have a big impact on our run defense as well as the pass rush.  Watch carefully in the preseason exhibition games.  If it turns out that the Falcons can reliably leave Robinson alone against top receivers, without safety help, that will free up the defense to play more cover one rather than cover two.

That will make a world of difference.  We played a lot of cover one in 2008 and again last season.  It wasn't intentional.  The Falcons wanted to keep both safeties deep in cover two mode to protect the infant cornerbacks, but the deficiencies in the middle of the line forced the team to bring up a safety on a regular basis to help with run defense.

It hurt the secondary, because Chris Houston was a liability when left alone in single coverage.  He had to give up jamming his man at the line and instead leave a large cushion, because if his receiver got past him, it would have been an instant touchdown.  The hope is that Robinson can play more aggressively, with confidence that his man won't get away from him.

If he can pull it off, the team can use the cover one to its advantage.  The safety on his side will be the one to line up short.  (It might be dictated by where the receivers line up, so both safeties would have to be able to take on either the SS or FS role.)   That will make the safety available for run support, and it will also allow him to blitz or to take over the zone coverage for a blitzing linebacker.

Presto - instant improved pass rush.  Five rushers is better than four.

And it's actually nothing new for the Falcons, since we've been doing the same thing for the last two years anyway.  The difference is that without Chris Houston being our top CB left alone to cover a top receiver, we might be more successful with it.



The team's other approach is to improve the pass rush from the inside out.  In 2003-2006, the Falcons had strong pass rushing DTs in Ellis Johnson and then Rod Coleman. We haven't had a strong attack from the middle since the last time Coleman managed to stay healthy for a season.

The hope is that a rotation of Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry and Corey Peters can turn up the heat in two ways - getting more sacks themselves and drawing extra attention from the offense away from the ends.

We'll have to keep our fingers crossed on that one.  Jerry and Peters are unproven players, Jerry has significant injury concerns, and Babs is facing suspension.


And finally, the DE positions...  Dimitroff says he believes John Abraham still has plenty left in his tank and should be in for a good year.  He also really likes the development of Kroy Biermann and wants to see what Lawrence Sidbury can do this season.

The word is that Jamaal Anderson has been working to bulk up for this season.  He'll likely play the end spot in running situations and slide in to the middle as part of the nickel or other sub packages.  No mention yet of how often we might use those 3-3-5 or 3-4 packages.

No word at all about Chauncey Davis.  When asked, Dimitroff says he's "another versatile player that can make contributions".  But it seems pretty clear that El Sid and Beer Man are the real hopes for the team at DE this year.

Interesting situation to watch this summer will be whether Jamaal still appears to have a starting spot or whether Biermann moves into the starting lineup in his place.  Biermann was listed at 246 when drafted but dropped to around 241 by the start of his rookie season.  He bulked up to 260 last season. 

And the top question for the early part of the regular season will be how the DT rotation will work with Babs out.  That could be the prime opportunity to slide Jamaal inside.

We might see an early season nickel front four of Biermann, Anderson, Jerry and Abraham, with Robinson, Chris Owens and Brent Grimes as the three corners, Lofton and Nicholas as the LBs (with the rookie Sean Weatherspoon coming off for the extra CB), Thomas DeCoud as the lone deep safety and William Moore playing up in a SS role.

So how would this be better than 2009?  (a) Robinson instead of Houston.  (b) Stephen Nicholas instead of Mike Peterson.  (c) Jerry instead of Thomas Johnson.  (d) more experience for Brent Grimes and Chris Owens.   (e) more blitzes from Curtis Lofton, Stephen Nicholas or William Moore.

If we can blitz more frequently (Smitty practically forgot the meaning of the word in the second Panthers game), get the slower Mike Peterson off the field for passing downs, and keep a safety up without losing much in coverage on one side, we should indeed have a more effective pass rush in 2010.




Posted on: October 25, 2009 1:31 pm
 

Falcons defensive line rotations vs Bears

The Falcons used more blitzes than they did in the first three weeks, and they also broke out their 3-4 and 3-3-5 nickel formations.  Part of it is the same smoke and mirrors concept as last season - we're still undersized on the d-line and young in the secondary.  Mixing up packages helps to disguise these potential targets.  Part of it is dictated by personnel.  With five DEs and only three DTs on the active roster, it makes sense to give some of the DEs a few snaps at DT and give the big guys a little more rest. 

The NBC broadcast of the Sunday night game named Jamaal Anderson as a starting defensive tackle.  It's true that Jamaal and other defensive ends played snaps in the middle, but it's a stretch to say that the Falcons have moved their struggling young DE in to replace Peria Jerry at the one-technique DT spot.

See it for yourself...  here's the log of Falcons defensive line personnel for each play of the game against the Bears.



Side note... for those not familiar with Falcons personnel,

DEs:   55 = John Abraham, 98 = Jamaal Anderson, 71 = Kroy Biermann, 92 = Chauncey Davis, 90 = Lawrence Sidbury
DTs:   95 = Jonathan Babineaux, 93 = Thomas Johnson, 97 = Trey Lewis   
LBs:   54 = Stephen Nicholas (also, 53 = Mike Peterson, 50 = Curtis Lofton)




1st defensive series, begins at 13:48 Q1

1st-10, ball at CHI 38 =  98 95 93 55  (listed from Falcons left to Falcons right) 
2nd-1, CHI 47 = 98 95 93 55  (blitz:  55 dropped back into coverage, 50 and 54 rushed)
3rd-1, CHI 47 = 98 95 93 92
1st-10, ATL 48 = 55 95 93 98
2nd-6, ATL 44 = 98 95 93 92
3rd-4, ATL 42 = 71 95 55  (3-3-5 nickel; 50 also rushed the passer so four man rush)
1st-10, ATL 36 = 71 98 95 55  
1st-10, ATL 24 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-7, ATL 21 = 71 98 95 55
3rd-1, ATL 15 = 98 95 93 92
1st-10, ATL 13 = 98 95 93 92
2nd-9, ATL 12 = 98 93 97 92
3rd-9, ATL 12 = 71 98 95 55



2nd defensive series, begins at 5:02 Q1

1st-10, CHI 37 = 92 93 97 71
2nd-10, CHI 37 = 92 93 97 71  (offensive holding, play doesn't count)
2nd-20, CHI 27 = 92 93 97 71
3rd-12, CHI 35 = 90 71 95 55  (#90 offsides, no play)
3rd-7, CHI 40 = 90 71 95 55  (blitz:  55 drops back, 29 and 50 rush)



3rd defensive series, begins at 0:34 Q1

1st-10, ATL 44 = 92 93 97 71 
1st-10, ATL 23 = 98 95 93 55



4th defensive series, begins at 9:03 Q2

1st-10, CHI 37 = 92 93 97 55
2nd-9, CHI 38 = 92 93 97 55
3rd-9, CHI 38 = 71 95 55   (54 also rushes)
1st-10, ATL 46 = 55 93 97 92 (6 man blitz:  55 drops, 53, 50, 26 rush) (SACK)
2nd-13, ATL 49 = 92 93 97 55
3rd-10, ATL 46 = (time out, no play) (ATL had 55 98 95 71 on line before time out)
3rd-10, ATL 46 = 71 95 55  (6 man blitz:  53, 54, 29 rush)



5th defensive series, begins at Q3

1st-10, CHI 19 = 98 95 93 55
2nd-6, CHI 23 = 55 98 95 71 (Blitz:  55 back, 50, 53 rush)
3rd-1, CHI 28 = 98 93 95 92
1st-10, CHI 30 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-11, CHI 29 = 71 98 95 55
3rd-11, CHI 29 = 71 98 95 55



6th defensive series, begins at 10:19 Q3

1st-10, CHI 40 = 98 93 97 92
2nd-13, CHI 37 = 92 98 93 71
3rd-9, CHI 41 = 71 98 95 55  (8-man GRITZ BLITZ)



7th defensive series, begins at 7:14 Q3

1st-10, CHI 40 =  98 93 95 92
2nd-10, CHI 40 =  98 93 95 92
Time out by ATL
1st-10, ATL 48 = 98 95 93 92
2nd-6, ATL 44 = 71 98 95 55  (Wildcat: direct snap to Devin Hester)
3rd-1, ATL 39 = 98 93 95 92
1st-10, ATL 34 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-11, ATL 35 = 71 98 95 55 (6-man blitz: 53, 50 rush)
1st-10, ATL 11 = 71 98 95 92
2nd-10, ATL 11 = 71 98 95 92
3rd-8, ATL 9 = 71 98 95 55
1st-GOAL, ATL 1 = 98 54 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
2nd-GOAL, ATL 1 = 98 54 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
3rd-GOAL, ATL 1 = 98 54 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)



8th defensive series, begins at 9:48 Q4

1st-10, CHI 8 =  55 93 95 92
1st-10, CHI 38 = 71 92 95 55
2nd-10, CHI 38 = 71 92 95 55
3rd-8, CHI 40 = 71 95 55  (Blitz - 54, 53 rush) (no play - pass interference on Chris Houston)
1st-10, ATL 37 = 98 93 97 92
2nd-10, ATL 37 = 98 93 97 92 (no play - offensive holding)
2nd-20, ATL 47 = 71 98 95 55 (Blitz - 71 drops back, 53 and 28 rush)
1st-GOAL, ATL 6 = 98 93 97 55
time out, CHI
2nd-GOAL, ATL 2 = 98 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
3rd-GOAL, ATL 2 = 71 98 95 55 (Blitz - 53, 50 rush)



9th defensive series, begis at 3:06 Q4

1st-10, CHI 12 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-4, CHI 18 = 71 98 95 55
1st-10, ATL 48 = 71 98 95 55
(two minute warning)
1st-10, ATL 35 = 71 92 95 55 (no play, offsides on Kroy Biermann)
1st-5, ATL 30 = 71 92 95 55
1st-10, ATL 24 = 71 92 95 55
2nd-10, ATL 24 = 71 98 95 55 (SACK)
time out, CHI
3rd-17, ATL 31 = 71 95 98 55 (no play - pass interference on Curtis Lofton)
1st-10, ATL 14 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-10, ATL 14 = 71 98 95 55 (no play - false start)
2nd-15, ATL 19 = 71 98 95 55 (no play - offensive pass interference)
2nd-25, ATL 29 = 71 95 55
3rd-25, ATL 29 = 71 95 55
time out, CHI
4th-1, ATL 5 = 71 98 95 92 (no play - false start)
4th-6, ATL 10 =  55 95 98 71




Posted on: September 19, 2009 3:07 am
 

Defensive line rotations, week one

I posted the play by play defensive line personnel for last year's week two game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I don't track it for every single game, but I do from time to time just to get a feel for the Falcons defensive scheme.

In the season opener against the Miami Dolphins, it should be noted that while Jamaal Anderson was officially the starter, it was Kroy Biermann that got the bulk of the reps in passing situations.  Anderson mainly played on first and second downs. 

Chauncey Davis was re-signed under the promise that he would be in serious competition for the starting job.  Based on playing time, it looks like he's been relegated to the #4 DE spot.

Also, this year's fourth round draft pick Lawrence Sidbury was on the active roster.  He mostly played special teams, but he did get on the field for the last two defensive plays.  That was an interesting time to make his debut - his first play was with the Dolphins going for it on fourth down.
Last season the team masked its defensive line weaknesses by mixing up schemes, throwing in a variety of blitzes, 3-4 alignments, 3-3 nickel packages, etc.  They played Jamaal Anderson as the nose tackle in the 3 man front, occasionally brought Stephen Nicholas up to the line, and did other unusual personnel moves - including the seven man Gritz Blitz.

At least for this game, the Falcons stuck with the four man front and rarely blitzed.  They did mix things up between man coverage and zone coverage assignments, but for the most part they stuck with the cover two and the four man rush.

Here's the defensive line personnel for each play:



First defensive series

1-10 MIA 32 = 98 94 95 55
2-07 MIA 35 = 71 94 95 55
3-05 MIA 37 = 71 94 95 55 = Kroy Biermann forced fumble

Second defensive series

1-10 MIA 12 = 55 94 95 98
2-10 MIA 12 = 71 94 95 55 = pass complete, 10 yard gain
1-10 MIA 22 = 98 94 95 55
2-08 MIA 24 = 71 94 95 55
3-05 MIA 27 = 71 94 95 55
1-10 MIA 33 = 71 94 93 55 = 14 yard run up middle vs nickel
1-10 MIA 47 = 98 94 93 71
2-08 MIA 49 = 98 94 93 71
3-04 ATL 47 = 71 94 95 55 = sack by Abraham

2nd quarter, Third defensive series

1-10 MIA 14 = 98 93 94 92
2-06 MIA 18 = 98 94 93 92 = pass complete, 16 yard gain
1-10 MIA 34 = 98 94 93 92 = direct snap to Ronnie Brown
2-06 MIA 38 = 98 93 94 92 = Pat White in game, runs
3-06 MIA 38 = 55 94 95 71

Fourth defensive series

1-10 MIA 36 = 98 94 93 92
2-03 MIA 43 = 98 94 93 92 = Pat White incomplete pass
3-03 MIA 43 = 71 94 95 55 = the "leg" catch - pass complete, 15 yds
1-10 ATL 42 = 55 93 95 71
2-05 ATL 37 = 55 93 95 71 = trick play double pass, 21 yard gain
1-10 ATL 16 = 98 95 93 55 = Peterson forced fumble, Williams return

Fifth defensive series
1-10 MIA 18 = 71 94 95 55
End of first half

3rd quarter, Sixth defensive series

1-10 MIA 16 = 98 94 95 55 = 9 yard run up middle vs nickel
2-01 MIA 25 = 98 94 95 55
3-05 MIA 21 = 71 94 95 55

Seventh defensive series

1-10 MIA 26 = 98 94 95 55 = Jamaal flushes QB, Abraham sack
2-10 MIA 26 = 92 94 95 55
3-09 MIA 27 = 92 94 95 71 = sack by Biermann

Eighth defensive series

1-10 MIA 20 = 98 94 93 92
2-11 MIA 19 = 98 94 93 92
3-05 MIA 25 = 55 94 93 71 = pass complete, 14 yard gain
1-10 MIA 39 = 98 93 94 92
2-06 MIA 43 = 98 94 93 92
1-10 ATL 49 = 98 94 93 92
2-02 ATL 41 = 98 94 95 71
1-10 ATL 38 = 98 94 95 71
2-09 ATL 37 = 98 94 95 71 = nullified by offensive pass interference
2-19 ATL 47 = 92 95 93 55 = interception by Peterson

Ninth defensive series

1-10 MIA 14 = 92 95 93 55 = 14 yard run up middle vs nickel
1-10 MIA 28 = 92 95 93 55 = Lofton forced fumble

4th quarter, Tenth defensive series

1-10 MIA 28 = 98 93 95 92
2-05 MIA 33 = 98 93 95 92 = pass tipped by Jamaal
3-05 MIA 33 = 71 95 93 55

Eleventh defensive series

1-10 MIA 24 = 98 94 95 92
2-10 MIA 24 = 98 94 95 92
3-10 MIA 24 = 71 94 95 55 = pass complete, 21 yard gain
1-10 MIA 45 = 71 94 95 55 = pass complete, 10 yard gain
1-10 ATL 45 = 71 94 95 55
2-05 ATL 40 = 71 94 95 55
1-10 ATL 31 = 71 94 93 55 = Peria Jerry banged up, does not return
2-05 ATL 26 = 71 95 93 55 = Abraham offsides, no play
1-10 ATL 21 = 71 93 95 55 = TD pass nullified by holding, no play
1-20 ATL 31 = 71 95 93 55
2-13 ATL 24 = 98 95 93 71
3-04 ATL 15 = 98 95 93 71
4-04 ATL 15 = 98 95 93 90 = only a three man pass rush
1-09 ATL 09 = 98 95 93 90 = TD pass to Ricky Williams





Posted on: September 9, 2009 10:49 pm
 

miscellaneous notes - 9/9/09

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: November 21, 2008 5:18 pm
 

misc notes before the Carolina game

The whisper in the wind has been that Grady's appeal is coming very soon.  Apparently it didn't happen today, but the expectation is that it will be sometime next week.

Grady had his knee scoped on Monday.  He missed practice Wednesday, was back Thursday, but rested today.  He's officially listed as questionable.  He's likely to play a limited number of snaps, but the final decision will come a few hours before game time.

Carolina is at full strength for this game (allegedly - more later) while Atlanta is more banged up than they have been in any other week.   Baker, Moorehead, and Laurent Robinson are all definitely out.  Abraham is still limited by that neck injury late in the game two weeks ago.   Roddy White practiced today after missing the rest of the week with his back. 

Grimes still isn't 100%, but he's close enough that he fully participated in practice this week.  Expect him to be available, though Foxworth is likely to remain the starter.  Chris Houston is nursing some tender ribs at the other corner.  He's officially listed as questionable but is likely to play.   

Norwood also got banged in the ribs late last week.  He's still a little sore but hasn't missed any practice time.  He's also officially listed as questionable, but expect to see him in action on Sunday.

Todd Weiner is still having flare-ups with his knee.  He will probably be available, but even if he's listed as active, he won't be able to play every snap.  We might be looking at Ojinnaka and Gandy for most of the day at LT. 

As mentioned in an earlier entry, Renardo Foster and Trey Lewis are both out for the year.   Both were close enough in their rehab to make the decisions interesting, but in both cases the verdict was that rushing them back would probably do more harm than good.   (But for everyone who is already thinking about next year's draft, keep in mind that these two heavyweights will be back in camp next season.)

The big issue for Carolina will be the health of starting QB Jake Delhomme.  His struggles over the last two weeks aren't just in the stats.  Reports are that his throws haven't had the velocity of his throws earlier in the season.  He's coming back from major surgery.  The question is whether he was simply in a slump against Oakland and Detroit or whether his arm is tiring out.

Something else also mentioned in the previous entry:   if you still have the video from our final preseason game, you might want to take another look at it.  J'Vonne Parker was added to the Falcon practice squad when the team first got word of Grady's pending suspension. 

He hasn't had a whole lot of playing time in his career, so there isn't all that much film on him available.  But he started the third preseason game for Baltimore and got some good playing time in their final preseason game - which was against us.   And he played pretty well.  He's credited with four tackles in that game.

The coaches are working fast and furious to get him up to speed on our defensive schemes.  If Grady is suspended, he may get promoted to the main roster.  At 325 pounds, he'd be 25 pounds larger than anyone else we have on the D-line.  For better or worse, he'd likely be thrown into the fire as the instant anchor of the run defense.

If all else fails, Rashad Moore and Tim Anderson are both still available as free agents. 

 
 
 
 
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