Tag:Kroy Biermann
Posted on: March 17, 2012 4:21 pm
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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: May 13, 2010 2:59 am
 

what we learned from minicamp

The first thing that jumps out about the rookies is that 2010 is looking like the deepest draft year we've seen in a long time.  I haven't finalized a list of the top 32 or 35 names for a "mock eighth round" yet, but I do believe that the top undrafted prospects this year will have more NFL success than the sixth or seventh rounders from 2007 or 2005.  Maybe even better than the fifth rounders.

For the Falcons, even the tryout kids looked good in minicamp.  The top two made the grade and got signed.  More might have been signed, but the team only had two available roster spots.




One of those was SW DeKalb / University of Richmond QB Eric Ward.  I posted the NFL Draft Scout dot com blurb on him in the misc notes thread before minicamp.   He needs to work on going through his reads faster, learning the offense, etc, but he has all the attributes you'd want in a QB project -  strong arm, pretty good accuracy, leadership (led Richmond to the FCS national championship in 2008), etc, etc.

The odd thing is that the Falcons now have five QBs on the roster.  It's not surprising for teams to carry four heading into training camp, but five is a little unusual.  If all five are still around at the end of July, it's likely that the team will have two sets of two working drills with the WRs while the fifth works with the RBs or TEs.

The alternative...  this could be the end of the line for D.J. Shockley.  He may once again be competing for his football life during OTAs.

Early call:  Ward makes the practice squad.



Dan Klecko is indeed working with the RBs, at least for now.  If that continues during OTAs, he's a real contender for the #2 FB spot (formerly held by Verron Haynes). 

There are three candidates for that #5 spot in the offensive backfield.  Klecko is a pure fullback (outside of the fact that he also plays on the defensive line).  Antone Smith is a pure running back.  Dimitri Nance is a Jason Snelling-like hybrid.  Smith and Nance are both strong prospects, and Klecko has a few Superbowl rings for his past work at fullback.

Early call:  it's a three way toss-up.  Give the initial edge to Nance for his versatility, but any of the three could take the job.  In training camp, Nance and Smith will have to show they can block.




It's not just Kerry Meier and Ryan WolfeBrandyn Harvey and Tim Buckley (the Alcorn State QB that the Falcons are playing at WR) will also be people to watch in camp.  And the returning Falcons prospects (Eric Weems, Troy Bergeron, Andy Strickland) are stepping up their own game in the face of the added competition. 

Atlanta had a whole bunch of prospects in camp last year to try to replace Laurent Robinson.  It didn't go so well, and the front office was already working out free agents even before Harry Douglas got hurt. 

This year's group may not be speed demons, but they have great hands.  They also have good size:  Harvey is 6-4, 205.  Wolfe is 6-2, 210.  Meier is 6-2, 224.  Added bonus:  Mularkey might be able to work in some trick plays or Wildcat stuff with them, as Meier and Buckley are both former QBs.

Early call:  Weems gets replaced.  Meier makes the roster.  If Harvey, Wolfe and Buckley show something in the preseason games, Brian Finneran gets replaced too. 




Not too much to say about the offensive and defensive lines, as minicamp and OTAs are strictly non-contact.  We won't get a real look at their skills until training camp opens at the end of July.

The one thing I will note about the offensive linemen is that these guys are BIG.  The days of the Alex Gibbs zone-blocking scheme are obviously long gone.  I won't knock it - that system was the ONLY way the team could have gone in 2004 to have a chance of being competitive up front.   It paid off, as that team went 11-5 and made it to the NFC Championship game.  But even Bobby Petrino knew we had to get bigger up front once that system was out the door. 

No more 285 pound tackles or 275 pound centers.  Our starting five:   Sam Baker lists at 6-5, 312.  Justin Blalock = 6-4, 333.  Todd McClure = 6-1, 301.  Harvey Dahl = 6-5, 308.  Tyson Clabo = 6-6, 332.  Backups:  Garrett Reynolds = 6-7, 310.  Mike Johnson = 6-5, 312.  Quinn Ojinnaka = 6-5, 305.  Will Svitek = 6-6, 300.   Jose Valdez (guard prospect) = 6-6, 310.

The only players under 6-4 or under 300 pounds are the backup centers and center prospects.  And even they are bigger than the centers we had in the past.  Brett Romberg and Joe Hawley are 298 and 297 pounds.  A few years ago, McClure had to bulk up just to get up to 290.

Early call:  we keep nine linemen, just like last season and the start of the 2008 season.  Unless someone gets hurt, the starters will be the same as last year.  Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley take three of the four backup spots.   I'll give Quinn Ojinnaka the early nod for the last spot, beating out Will Svitek and Brett Romberg.




It was meaningless without contact, but Lawrence Sidbury and Kroy Biermann showed some intensity during minicamp.  They know the team is counting on them to join John Abraham as a trio of pass rush DEs.  As had been reported earlier, Jamaal Anderson has bulked up a bit for more duty as a swing DE/DT.  He's still listed at 283, but best guess is that he's now around 290-292.

Early call:  the roster will have the same five DEs as last year.  Jamaal will still be the "official" starter, but don't read too much into that - it only means he'll be out there for the first play at 1st and 10.  Beer Man and El Sid will get the bulk of the pass rush reps.




Not much to say about the DT spots.  Peria Jerry did some rehab work but was limping afterwards.  Jonathan Babineaux was held out with a shoulder problem.  Thomas Johnson got banged up in one session and was held out of two others.  And it's already May and we haven't heard a peep about Babs' case going to trial.  His suspension is a certainty, but it might not come at the start of the year.  That would make things really, really awkward for the coaching staff at the DT spots. 

Early call:  the team will keep telling us Jerry is right on schedule with his rehab work and will be ready for the start of training camp.  But when July 29 comes around, they'll have him take it easy for the first week and may even sit him out the first preseason game. 

If the commish waits until after the trial to suspend Babs, we go with four DTs.  Only one of Trey Lewis, Thomas Johnson, and Vance Walker will make the initial roster.  Lewis would be the most likely if he plays like he's healthy, but he'll have to step it up and prove himself.  So I'll give the early nod to Walker instead.




At linebacker, Sean Weatherspoon worked some at both OLB spots in minicamp and did well for his first time out.  Spencer Adkins and Robert James stepped up strongly too. 

Last year's trio of undrafted LB prospects (Derek Nicholson, Brock Christopher, Rashad Bobino) didn't make the practice squad.  Bear Woods and Weston Johnson hope to do better this year.  Woods may be the most interesting personality of this year's rookie prospects.  He wants to become a minister after his football days are over.

Here's a good look at why he's nicknamed "Bear"...

Early call:  Mike Peterson's roster spot is safe, as he's the best candidate for the #2 MLB spot as well as rotating at either OLB spot.  But 'Spoon likely starts right away.  If Adkins and James keep it up, the coaches may use the last at-large roster spot to keep all seven LBs.




I was very happy that the team re-signed Brian Williams.  I noted at the time that his real value isn't at CB but as extra depth at safety.  (Hmmm... would you rather have Williams or Charlie Peprah as your #4?)  

Later, the Falcons signed Matt Giordano in free agency, drafted Shann Schillinger, and signed prospects Rafael Bush and Gabe Derricks as undrafted free agents.  That fourth safety spot will be a nice battle during training camp.

It's tough to say whether this year's group of contenders for the #4 spot is better than last year's group (which included returning safeties Antoine Harris and Jamaal Fudge, plus prospects Marcus Paschal and Eric Brock).  They're competing for a spot that will hopefully be a fixture on the inactive list.

But there's an odd similarity in that the most experienced contender is a CB who also plays safety and who is attempting to return from injury.  This year it's Williams.  Last year, it was Von Hutchins.

Giordano is the only one of this year's crop after Williams that has any NFL experience at all.  Dimitroff is really stoked about Schillinger, noting he's "a safety slash special teams guy with a lot of speed and a lot of toughness".   D-Led is really big on prospect Rafael Bush.  And D-Led has been right more often than not lately, so I have to take him seriously and keep an eye on his guy.

Early call:  Schillinger beats out Giordano and makes the roster.  Williams won't be ready to go in September and will get the injury waiver just like Hutchins did last season. 





Things only get interesting at CB if someone gets hurt or if Williams shows up healthy for camp and can make all the changes of direction required at cornerback.  Otherwise, there are seven other CBs on the roster to fill five positions.  Two of them are undrafted free agents:  Dominique Daniels and Daylan Walker, the other walk-on from minicamp that got signed.

Early call:  without Williams being 100%, it's a no-brainer.  Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, Chris Owens, Chevis Jackson, Dominique Franks take the five roster spots.  Daniels and Walker are simply competing to make it to training camp. 




Too early to say anything yet on the specialists.  Michael Koenen has his spot locked up already, but the long snapper and place kicker spots are up for grabs.

Early call:  I'll give the May nod to Justin Drescher at long snapper just to get his name out there.  He really is a contender to make the roster, while incumbent Joe Zelenka was really only our #3 choice last season.  And I'll roll with Steven Hauschka at PK, just to point out to D-Led that Matt Bryant isn't a shoo-in and to note that rookie Garrett Lindholm will have to step up and win the job.  It isn't his for the taking.  But in truth, the jobs could go to any of the three kickers and either of the long snappers. 




There are candidates all over the board for the last roster spot.  It could easily be a seventh LB, tenth DB, sixth WR, tenth offensive lineman, tenth defensive lineman, or sixth RB/FB.  The player will make the roster mainly for his performance on special teams.  It won't get as much attention from the local media as the battle for the 4th safety spot, 4th DT spot, etc, but it may be the most strongly contested spot on the entire roster.

Early call:  I'll make life easier on the coaches and go with Robert James as a seventh linebacker, beating out the extra DT or offensive lineman.   The other likely contenders are Shann Schillinger (if Matt Giordano wins the #4 safety spot) or an extra WR out of Wolfe / Harvey / Buckley / Bergeron.




Bottom line...  the main thing I noted about the roster heading into 2009 was that it was the deepest Falcons roster I could remember.  They needed every bit of that depth.

And since no one left in free agency and only long snapper Mike Schneck retired, this year's roster moves and drafts have all been for upgrades rather than mere replacements.   The 2010 roster will be even deeper than last year's version.  That's just plain scary.



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: November 1, 2009 1:20 pm
 

best guesses on this week's injured Falcons

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 CowboysTony 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 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: October 3, 2009 10:04 pm
 

Ten observations from the first three games

Just filling the void of the early bye week with this one...


After three weeks, we've seen some interesting signs - both good and bad.  Here are ten observations, in no particular order:


Tony Gonzalez is everything we hoped he'd be.  Wow...


The young secondary isn't as bad as we feared, but they still have a long way to go.  Brian Williams and Tye Hill may prove to be our CBs of the near future.  And yes, I'll go ahead and say it: I'm not expecting to see Chris Houston in a Falcons uniform beyond 2010, if he even lasts that long.  


Jason Snelling can play.  It's scary to think that Petrino actually cut him to make room for (gulp) Artose Pinner, who was allegedly Petrino's short yard specialist.   Yeah, right... nice move, Coach Booby.  Snelling is much better all around and excels in short yardage situations.  He can block and catch passes out of the backfield too.


The Falcons are still overusing Michael Turner.  For heaven's sake Smitty, give the man more rest.  350+ carries a season is too many.


Eric Weems is getting it done as a return man.  If he keeps this up he'll stick on the roster purely for his special teams play, regardless of whether he ever blossoms as a wideout.  (And as hard as he's been working the last two years, I'm not ready to count him out even at WR.)


We're still undersized in the middle of the d-line, with or without Peria Jerry.  I hoped our braintrust would have solved this problem by now.  The smoke and mirrors approach to disguising it can only go so far, as the Falcons saw in the wild card loss to the Cardinals.


The preview rags all said the linebacker group would be a problem. HA! Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson and Curtis Lofton are looking pretty good early on. (While I'm picking on the previews, the so-called professional analysts also unanimously claimed the Falcons had depth problems on the o-line.  Who comes up with this nonsense, and have any of these guys ever even been to the complex??) 


Any questions about whether Chauncey Davis would take away Jamaal Anderson's starting job are now officially moot.  They're both duds. (Kroy Biermann is part of the answer, but even with his added bulk he's still too small for a lot of snaps in run defense. The Eagles game will be a big test for him.  The Philadelphia o-line pancaked him non-stop in last year's game.)


Thomas DeCoud is turning into a beast.  In camp and preseason LAST year, he looked lost - hesitating, misreading plays, and missing open field tackles.  This year he's coming on strong and showing that he truly deserves the starting spot.  Even if William Moore had been healthy all preseason, Decoud probably would have won the job. 


We have weapons beyond belief on the offensive side of the ball, but the play calling has suddenly become more conservative than the FOX News Channel.  And this three man rush prevent defense has got to go. It almost cost the team the game against the Panthers.  Sooner or later it will turn a W into an L.  If we're going to put an end to this back-to-back thing, we can't afford to let games slip away.

 
 
 
 
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