Tag:Matt Ryan
Posted on: December 24, 2009 2:16 am

early notes before the Bills game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: December 10, 2009 6:31 pm

injury update - 12/10/09

If anyone missed the news, Chris Houston is OUT for this weekend against the Saints with a bad hamstring.  Justin Peelle has a concu...  er, "head injury".  He hasn't officially been scratched yet, but that's likely to change with tomorrow's injury report.  I've already scratched him from my projected lineup. 

Jonathan Babineaux, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Sam Baker and Will Svitek are all limited but practicing.  If they hold up, they'll all be available.  The question is how effective they'll all be.  We've seen Baker get torched while trying to play hurt earlier this season, and Roddy wasn't particularly effective either the first couple of games after he got banged up.  So while Jenkins might be in the lineup, it's questionable how effective he'll be.

Todd McClure returned to limited practice today.  He's going to try to play this weekend if the medical staff will clear him.  They probably will. 

Harvey Dahl isn't doing quite so well.  He has been resting his ankle and working with the trainers rather than practicing.  He'll start with the training staff tomorrow before practice.  If all goes well, he'll be listed as "questionable" on tomorrow's injury report and will be a game time decision. 

Best guess...  Baker and McClure play.  Brett Romberg will be active but will NOT start for Dahl since McClure is also dicey.  Quinn Ojinnaka likely starts at right guard.  The backup tackle will be a game time decision between Svitek and Garrett Reynolds.

The best news of the week:  Chris Owens is fully back in action.  Unless something happens to him in practice tomorrow, he'll probably start this weekend.  No word yet on who will start across from him, but it's not all that significant since the coaches are expected to once again rotate the remaining corners. 
And of course the story all the media is covering:  Michael Turner and Matt Ryan are both still being held out completely.  The team hasn't announced that either of them will be scratched, and the official word from the coaching staff is that the team hopes they'll both be able to play.  Unfortunately, the unofficial word is that the chances are less than 50/50 that either of them will see the field this weekend.  It's possible, but they'll both have to make some significant progress in the next two days. 

So we'll probably be up against the undefeated Saints without our starting quarterback or running back to go along with our patchwork defense.  It's a good thing I'm not in Vegas like last weekend.  I'd be tempted to put a chunk of money down AGAINST us this week - regardless of the spread.

Posted on: September 18, 2009 1:17 am

Matt Ryan's pass log - week 1

I didn't post any of the pass logs from this year's exhibition games, so this could use some explanation.

The QB pass log is a tool that I mainly use in preseason.  The idea is that the official stats really don't tell the whole story about a QB's performance. 

It really came in handy last year in preseason, when Joey Harrington and D.J. Shockley were the two choices for the #3 QB.  Harrington had much better official statistics, but Shockley had a much better pass log. The coaches grade the game film rather than the box score, and D.J. won the job. If you looked at the pass logs, it was no surprise.

How it works:  you grade each throw for accuracy and for whether the throw was made under duress.  It doesn't have to be a complicated grading system.  "Pressure" vs "no pressure" and "accurate" vs "off target" will suffice.  I add a "close" option for accuracy, which I use for cases where the throw isn't perfect but the receiver might have had a chance to make a play.

I usually don't factor in the distance (mainly to keep things simple), but this year's preseason demonstrated that maybe I should.  (Chris Redman had great stats and a great pass log - but never even attempted a deep pass.)

So this time around I added a quick "short" vs "deep" notation as well.  I was thinking about adding a mid-range category, but decided to skip it for this game.  I said anything 15 yards or more downfield (in the air - not counting yards after the catch) is deep, less than that is short.

Pressure vs no pressure is subjective.  So is accurate vs close vs off target.  If you review the film, your results might be a little different from mine.  (Please do feel free to watch the video again yourselves and let me know about plays where you disagree.)

Also - I include throws on plays called back by penalties.  I do NOT grade shovel passes (though I do grade regular screen plays), passes that were intentionally thrown away, or spikes to stop the clock.

Here's what I saw from Matt Ryan's passes against the Dolphins in week 1:

First Atlanta drive

01) no pressure, accurate, short throw - complete to Tony Gonzalez
02) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Jerious Norwood
03) pressure, off target, short - incomplete to Justin Peelle, but negated by pass interference penalty
04) no pressure, off target, deep - incomplete to Roddy White; would have been touchdown but ball was underthrown
05) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Norwood (2 yard pass, 8 yard run after the catch)
06) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Michael Jenkins (3 yard pass, 8 YAC)
07) pressure, off target, deep - incomplete to Gonzalez (TG went 19 yards; the pass went 24 yards)
08) no pressure, accurate, short - pass defended, intended for Roddy

Second drive

09) no pressure, off target, deep - intended for Jenkins but short and behind him
10) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Roddy for seven yards
11) intentionally thrown away - not graded

Q2 - Third drive

12) no pressure, accurate, deep - complete to Jenkins for 22 yards
13) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Roddy for 12 yards
14) pressure, off target, short - tried to dump off to Michael Turner
15) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Roddy
16) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Gonzalez
17) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Gonzalez
18) no pressure, accurate, short - one yard TD to Ovie Mughelli

Fourth drive

19) no pressure, close, short - incomplete to Gonzalez

Fifth drive

20) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Jenkins
21) shovel pass - not graded
22) no pressure, off target, deep - missed Norwood on easy TD after defender fell down.

Q3 - Sixth drive

23) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Roddy (pass was behind line, and Roddy ran for six yards after the catch)
24) no pressure, off target, deep - questionable play call to throw the bomb on 3rd and 1.  Roddy got past both the CB and safety, but the ball was badly underthrown and should have been intercepted.

Seventh drive

25) no pressure, accurate, short - ten yard gain by Norwood, but it was 3rd and 16

Eighth drive

26) intentionally thrown away - not graded
27) no pressure, accurate, short - pass defended, intended for TG
28) pressure, accurate, short - Dolphins on all-out blitz; Ryan throws it four yards to TG, who runs 16 more yards for the touchdown.

Q4 - Ninth drive

29) shovel pass - not graded
30) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Gonzalez
31) no pressure, off target, short - overthrew Roddy
32) no pressure, off target, short - threw on run and missed Roddy

Tenth drive

33) no pressure, accurate, short - 2 yard pass to Ovie Mughelli, who ran for 19 more yards
34) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Roddy for 3 yards
35) no pressure, accurate, short - complete to Jenkins but lost yardage
36) no pressure, accurate, short - 1 yard pass to Norwood, 11 YAC
37) no pressure, accurate, short - pass defended, intended for TG 

Eleventh drive - no passes thrown.

Totals = 37 passes thrown (36 officially + 1 negated by penalty).  33 passes graded (2 thrown away, 2 shovel passes).

With no pressure:  22 were accurate, 1 was close, 6 were off target. (4 of the 6 off target throws were deep passes.)
Under duress:  1 was accurate, 3 were off target.

Deep passes:  1 was accurate, 5 were off target.

It's pretty clear that Matt Ryan is deadly with the short stuff (22-1-2 when not pressured) but hasn't found his touch yet on the deep stuff (but at least he hit one of them - he missed everything 20+ yards in preseason.)

It's also pretty clear that the Falcons offensive line is doing an outstanding job in pass protection.  29 of the 33 graded throws were not under duress.  The two throwaways both had enough time to make a play, but no one was open.  The downside was the two sacks allowed, and at least one of the throws under duress came because of a miscommunication up front.  But that's still a fine performance overall for the first game of the year.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 17, 2009 11:49 pm

Ten observations from the Dolphins game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a few things that need work:

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

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

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

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

Posted on: August 8, 2009 12:03 am

scrimmage at Brookwood H.S. - 8/07/09

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...

Posted on: August 3, 2009 3:35 pm

Camp notes - 8/03/09

Camp notes:   It's Day 3 of training camp.  So far, the big star has been Brent Grimes.  I've lost count of how many interceptions he's made already (probably four or five), but I'm sure at this point Matt Ryan and Michael Jenkins are happy he's with the Falcons instead of the Saints or Panthers.  He did it to them again this morning, maneuvering around Jenkins, making the read to get position, leaping and picking off a deep throw from Ryan.

Matt Ryan has shown a little bit more zip than we saw at the end of last season.  It could be that he was just wearing down late in 2008, or the reported weight work he did this offseason could be showing.  He has also been deadly with his accuracy so far this camp.

Mixed grades on the other three QBs.  All three have had great throws followed by a muff here or there.  John Parker Wilson looks pretty good so far - he has better accuracy than D.J. Shockley and seems to have a better arm than Chris Redman

Not much to say about the young WRs (Aaron Kelly, Bradon Godfrey, Darren Mougey) this time around.  They've spent as much time playing the DB roles in the offense vs offense drills as they have doing real WR duty, which has cut down significantly on their opportunities for receptions.  Jenkins, Harry Douglas and Brian Finneran have had the bulk of the reps so far, with Chandler Williams, Eric Weems and Troy Bergeron acting as a second unit.  Darren Mougey did get one deep pass from Redman in the seven on seven drills this morning.

So far the team is sticking to the basics.  I half expected a few Wildcat plays or something goofy from Mularkey over the weekend while all the fans were there, but the weekend sessions were either no-pads or shells only.  Today was the first day with full pads and almost full contact - the linemen went at it, but there was no tackling, no Wildcat and no trick plays. 
Trey Lewis and Peria Jerry are both looking really good.  I'm not sure I'm sold yet on Jason Jefferson's reported improvement being the real deal.  He's not looking bad, but I haven't seen anything yet to wow me.  Thomas Johnson has had a really good camp so far.  Vance Walker looks okay too, but I don't know if he'll make the roster.  Some of the combinations at DT have been interesting - Lewis and Johnson have worked together while Jerry has done some work with Jefferson.  

In some of the full team 11-on-11 sessions, the secondary rotated schemes between cover one, cover two, and cover three.  In the cover one, Erik Coleman came up to the line while the other safety (typically Thomas DeCoud or Jamaal Fudge) played a deep center field role.  In the cover three, Brent Grimes would drop back and play deep as a third safety.  So far, Decoud has had the most work with the first unit, while William Moore has worked with the second group.

The second unit offensive line has mixed it up from practice to practice, but the coaches are getting Garrett Reynolds a lot of work at right tackle.  It looks like nearly everybody in the group will be practicing at guard over the next couple of weeks.  I do like what I've seen of Will Svitek and Mike Butterworth working together on the left side.  If they keep it up, it won't be so easy to write them off. 

Posted on: April 22, 2009 1:13 am

Ten things I would have done differently...

Obviously things didn't go well for the Falcons in 2007, and (even more obviously) 2008 was a much better year in Flowery Branch.

There are many things going back many, many years that the team has done that made me cringe, knowing deep inside that once again the Falcons had shot themselves in the foot.  (Hiring Marion Campbell a second time.  Drafting an unknown punter who wasn't even Div 1-A in the third round.  Drafting a small school WR who was awaiting sentencing on his manslaughter conviction, etc...)

The full list would be WAY too long to post.  And some of the things I would have done differently might not have turned out any better than the things the team actually did.  But I still wouldn't have made many of the same moves the team made even in the last couple of years. 

So here's another list of tens, this time covering some things that I would have done differently if I had been the one in charge of the team, from January 1, 2007 to right now. 

Some of them may be improvements, others not so great.  But these are the main things that jump to my mind over the last two years and four months where I heard the news and immediately thought "I wouldn't have done that".  In chronological order:


1)  I wouldn't have fired Jim Mora. 

Yes, the team had a second straight late season collapse, and he made a few mistakes.  But the decision to fire him on January 1, 2007 hit me as a bit rash.  In spite of a talent-thin lineup, he had the team in the postseason one year and in the wild card chase right through to the final week in his other two seasons. 

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had to go.  But for better or for worse I would have given Mora one more year. 

In hindsight, I find it absolutely hilarious that that the last straw was Mora joking that he'd leave the Falcons to take on the college job. 



2)  I would have named Chauncey Davis the starter at DE even before the 2007 draft.

Forget about how things have turned out so far with Jamaal Anderson.  I know everyone hates that draft pick and wants to run the kid out of town.  That's irrelevant since it all came later.  This has NOTHING to do with Jamaal, because he wasn't even on the team at the time.

Focus strictly on Chauncey Davis instead. 

He had put in fine efforts as a backup and truly had earned the right to step up as Patrick Kerney's replacement.  If Mora had been the coach, Davis would have been the starter.  We also had out-of-nowhere guys Paul Carrington and Josh Mallard as potential backups.  They may not be the world's greatest DE trio, but for the defensive schemes we had been running, they were capable of doing those jobs. 

By ignoring their contributions, the team gets the message right away that the new coach is a my-way-or-the-highway guy who intends to replace established players with HIS own guys.  If you're a proven winner as a head coach, that's acceptable.  If you're about to coach your very first game, it's a big red flag.  (Ground control to Major Booby:  work with what you have.  You can't replace a whole team in one offseason.)  
And second, it wasted an opportunity to go after another position with that first draft pick.  We lost Kerney, but we still had Abraham.  DE didn't have to be tops on the shopping list.  Petrino pushed for the Matt Schaub trade because he said he needed "players". But he had a bunch of them already here, and he ignored or released them instead of putting their talents to use.


3)  I would have kept both kickers, Billy Cundiff and Matt Prater, for the 2007 season. 

Cundiff had been out of the league while recovering from injury.  But he kicked well in camp and was reliable in preseason.  The downside was that he didn't have a great leg for kickoffs.  At the time, kickoff coverage was a glaring weakness for our Birds.  (And that continued throughout the season - we later allowed Tampa their first kick return touchdown in franchise history.)

When prospect Matt Prater became available only days before the final roster cuts, Bobby Petrino saw part of a workout and signed the kid immediately - having him kick the final preseason game and releasing Cundiff the next morning.  Prater was the obvious solution to the kickoff return problem.  He can put it in the end zone for a touchback every time.

The catch is that he was an unproven rookie who had just one workout before suiting up for one preseason game - and he shanked one of his three field goal attempts during the game.  Giving Cundiff the pink slip was, to say the least, a major risk.

I was in favor of keeping Prater, but I would NOT have released Cundiff.


4)  I would have kept Frank Omiyale as the backup left tackle for 2007. 

This one is probably a bit obscure for most fans, who might not even know who Frank Omiyale is or that he was orignally with the Falcons. 

Petrino shoved aside some of our backups to make room for "his" guys.  Allen Rossum was ditched to make room for Antoine Harris.  Tommy Jackson was let go in favor of Montavious Stanley. (To a lesser degree, our new coaching staff has done the same thing.  It's pretty common when you have a change at coach.)

But the one that bothered me most was the way Petrino handled Mora's two draft picks on the o-line, Quinn Ojinnaka and Frank Omiyale.  To make room for Renardo Foster, Petrino moved Omiyale over to the right side and put him in direct competition with Ojinnaka for one backup spot at RT.  Meanwhile, he had undrafted free agent Foster compete with journeyman Leander Jordan (who wasn't really even a tackle) for the backup job on the left side.  That guaranteed that one of our more experienced backup tackles would be shown the door in favor of keeping Petrino's undrafted kid from Louisville in a crucial role. 

Instead, I would have started Renardo Foster on the practice squad and kept Omiyale and Ojinnaka as the two backup tackles.  When Wayne Gandy struggled and then got hurt in week five, Omiyale would have been his replacement.

I don't know how well it would have worked out or if Omiyale would have been injured like Gandy, Foster, Todd Weiner and Terrance Pennington (yes, we put FOUR left tackles on IR in one season!).   But I certainly wouldn't have just thrown away a fine up and coming left tackle prospect like that.  (The Panthers scooped him up from waivers in a heartbeat.  He was their backup LT for the last two seasons, and this year he signed a free agent deal with the Bears, hoping to win a starting job.)


5)  There's no way on earth I would have cut Grady Jackson during the 2007 bye week.  Montavious Stanley should have been the one released instead.  (And as a follow-up, I would have tried to re-sign Grady as a backup this offseason rather than letting him slip away to the Lions.)

After the week five fiasco against the Titans (perhaps the worst coaching I have ever seen at the NFL level), I was silently hoping that Arthur Blank would come to his senses, realize he made a horrible mistake in hiring Petrino, and fire him right after the last game before the bye week.  That would allow a new coach to evaluate the players on hand over the rest of the season and get a great headstart for 2008.

I also remember being glad it was the bye, thinking that at least Petrino couldn't screw up and cost the Falcons a win that week as he did in at least three of the team's losses to that point.

Wow, was I ever dead wrong about that one!

Petrino decided to name rookie Trey Lewis as the starting NT ahead of Grady Jackson.  No problem there.  But once again Petrino gave favoritism to one of his Louisville guys at the expense of the team as a whole.  Instead of releasing #5 DT Montavious Stanley, who really wasn't a good fit for the NT spot anyway, he cut Grady.

And neither Petrino nor defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer ever gave Grady any explanation as to why.  They didn't even give him the news in person, instead leaving it to an assistant in the personnel office to call in Jackson on one of those days off to clear out his locker.

That was what made it such a joy to see Grady return during training camp in 2008.  It was a great big one-finger salute to Coach Booby. The guy he cast aside like trash is still around, while Petrino is the laughing stock of the NFL.  Take THAT, you great big steaming pile of hog-sooey!


That's five from Petrino's reign of terror.  Now for five more from our new regime...

6)  I would not have released Alge Crumpler before camp in 2008.

Right before the late February roster cuts, the AJC ran an article listing 11 players that might be on the bubble.

I posted a piece on the team message board going through that article and making my own guesses on whether each of those players would stay or go.  I was right about 10 out of the 11.  The only one that surprised me was Crumpler.

His contract had a $4.9 million base salary for 2008, but he had a little over $4.8 million in bonus money that had yet to count against the salary cap.  The bottom line was that we got no benefit from casting aside the guy who might have been a young quarterback's best friend.

At the very least, we should have waited and let him work with Ryan in camp.


7)  I would have made the big trade with the Ravens in the 2008 draft.

I focus heavily on the salary cap, and the main thing I wanted to see from new GM Thomas Dimitroff was for Atlanta to get rid of the salary cap woes that had crippled the team for at least five years and get ahead of the cap curve once and for all.

I also wanted to see the team start stockpiling future draft picks to use as trade ammo.

This one is the ultimate alternate-universe scenario for the Falcons.  Instead of Matt Ryan, we would have ended up with Joe Flacco.  We might also have ended up with Jeff Otah instead of Sam Baker, and we probably would have had more picks in round two than just Curtis Lofton

The story is that the Ravens were interested in Matt Ryan. They tried to swing a last minute trade with the Rams (who had the #2 pick) to get ahead of Atlanta and draft him.  The offer was a sweet package of picks, but St. Louis asked for more.  And the Rams apparently also tried to squeeze Atlanta for an extra pick, wanting us to trade up from #3 to #2 in order to block the Baltimore trade.

The moment the story broke (or the moment St. Louis called wanting us to make the #3 for #2 trade) I would have asked the Ravens if they would offer the same package to us for the #3 pick instead of to the Rams for the #2.  And once I had moved to Baltimore's #7 spot, I would have traded down one more time (as did the Ravens) to land in the mid teens.

Obviously things have worked out quite well with Matt Ryan.  We might not even have to fear the salary cap consequences of his huge contract, as it now seems possible that the next CBA might ditch the salary cap system entirely.  My choice might not have gone so well for the 2008 season. 

But at the time, the team was in rebuilding mode and the main thing that had held us down for years was an ongoing problem with the cap.  I would have made the trades to get out of #3 and into cheaper territory in order to get us out of those cap woes once and for all.

As it stands, we might be right back in the soup by 2011 if the new CBA restores the cap.


8)  I would have drafted a nose tackle prospect (probably Frank Okam) and signed at least one more as a UFA.

On the Falcons team board, we were all quite pleased with the first day of the draft.  There was a moment of fear when the Sam Baker trade was first announced, as ESPN reported it as a three pick for one pick deal.  (They didn't go out of their way to make the correction known, as the other picks Atlanta received were not in the draft's first day.  Dimitroff made it quite clear that night, however, that the network was mistaken.  It was a three for three deal.  The Falcons moved down with two picks in order to move up with one and take Baker.) 

The elation of the first day disappeared throughout day two.  With the QB, LT, and LB addressed by the end of the second round, most of us KNEW that help at DT was on the way.

The Falcons didn't have Grady, had cut Rod Coleman, and had heard Trey Lewis would be out for at least the first month of the season after falling on the stairs. All we had on the roster were Petrino's man Montavious Stanley, Buffalo's castoff Tim Anderson, and some bargain rack free agents in Rashad Moore and Kindal Moorehead.  You didn't have to be psychic to know that one of the three third round picks would be a solid DT prospect.

They took a cornerback...  okay, no problem, we can use another one of those.  Wide receiver...  not sure why, but he's also a return man, so it could work.  Safety... ummm, didn't think that was an immediate need...

Ouch.  Well, maybe they're targeting someone like Frank Okam, who projects as a fifth rounder.  We have two picks in that round.  It's gotta happen then...

Linebacker...  he's a good prospect, but fear is starting to creep in.  Small school linebacker / defensive end... ouch.  This is getting serious.  We're into the late rounds now.  Well, Trey Lewis was a sixth rounder, so maybe we'll get a decent one.

Running back...  5'9" cornerback... tight end.  And no DTs among the announced UFAs the next day.

We knew even then that Dimitroff had let us down on the defensive line.  No DTs, and the only DE drafted was really a linebacker who didn't even play 1-A ball.

Even if it was just a guy who would otherwise be a practice squad prospect from another team, I would have had at least one more big man on the main roster at all times. 


9)  I would have waited at least a month before starting Matt Ryan.

It's not that Ryan wasn't ready or wasn't our best QB option.  He certainly was.  The problem was that our offensive line hadn't had much time working together as a unit. Many of the starting jobs had been up for grabs right until the end of preseason, and the communications and teamwork was a bit shaky.

The line gave up seven sacks in those first four games, compared to only 10 total sacks in the remaining twelve games.  The Falcons went 2-2 in that first month, with the two wins coming against hapless Detroit and Kansas City, who played Tyler Thigpen as their starting quarterback that week.

Even in retrospect, while it may have helped to get Ryan in there ASAP to shake off any rookie jitters, I still feel we would have been just as well off letting Redman take the snaps that month instead of risking our $70 million babyface against the likes of the Tampa and Carolina pass rushes.



10)  I would not have traded Laurent Robinson.

The only way this deal makes sense to me is if the coaches had already decided Robinson was going to be cut this summer.  Otherwise, the value they got in return for him is a joke.

The team moved up about 20 spots in rounds five and six.  If you look at the point chart (you DID read those blog entries, right?) you'll see that the combined value of moving up both picks is a mere 18 points.  That's the equivalent of the 183rd overall pick of the draft.

Robinson has health questions, but he has good hands and made quite a few impressive catches in clutch situations over the last two seasons.  We essentially traded our up and coming #4 WR for a sixth round draft pick.

We'll have to see what our coaching staff does with the upgraded draft picks this weekend, but I'll go ahead and say it:   No thanks.  I'd rather keep the wideout.

Posted on: March 30, 2009 2:26 am

miscellaneous notes - 3/29/09

Former Falcons defensive tackle Rod Coleman is no longer available.  He signed with the Saints, rejoining defensive line coach Bill Johnson.  Johnson was the defensive line coach in Atlanta under head coach Jim Mora, Jr.

Former practice squad defensive tackle J'Vonne Parker has signed on with the Broncos.  Parker was here late last season as an insurance policy in case we lost Grady Jackson to suspension.  He had spent the 2008 training camp with the Ravens and played in the final exhibition game against Atlanta, putting in a solid performance and racking up four tackles during that game.

The compensatory draft picks were announced during the annual NFL meetings last week. Obviously the Falcons were not in line to receive any extra picks for this draft (it's based on LAST season's free agent comings and goings, and last season we signed more than we lost).  But at least it makes the full draft order official.

So now we know -  Atlanta has the #24, 55, 90, 125, 143 (fifth rounder from the Raiders), 160 (our own fifth rounder), and 196.  Our seventh rounder that we sent to the Broncos for Domonique Foxworth will be the #235 overall. 

Boston College tight end Ryan Purvis was not even invited to the combine.  But he was on our list of prospects to bring in for a private workout.  He was known as a blocking tight end in college, but he was able to improve his receiving statistics each year.  He's not a speed threat (40 time in the 4.8 range), but he'd be serious competition for Jason Rader and Keith Zinger.

We would likely be able to sign him as an undrafted free agent.  Rankings will vary, but Purvis is probably somewhere in the ballpark of the 18th to 24th tight end prospect. Expect 16 or fewer tight ends to be drafted.  (There have been more than 16 TEs selected only once since the draft went to the current seven round format back in 1993.)

Considering he has the connection with quarterback Matt Ryan, that might help ease the rookie learning curve.  If nothing else, it would give him a pretty good edge for making the practice squad. 

That doesn't mean the team will pass up a chance to draft a higher ranked TE prospect.  As an undrafted free agent, Purvis would simply be an addition to our camp roster, not a replacement.

A few web sites have reported that we've brought in DE prospect Ataefiok Etukeren from Georgetown for a workout as well.  I know nothing about him... just passing along the news.

From the "where are they now" file... our former DT Tommy Jackson was popular here as one of our out-of-nowhere players (like Tony Taylor in 2007 and Harvey Dahl and Brent Grimes last year).  But Coach Booby dropped Jackson at the last roster cut to make room for one of his Louisville players, Montavious Stanley.  Jackson was later added to the Chiefs practice squad and will be in camp with KC this summer.

One way to read the tea leaves about a team's potential draft plans is to look at what prospects are coming in for private workouts. Teams are limited in the number of prospects they are allowed to bring in, so they aren't likely to use too many of those workouts just to give misdirection to other teams.

The Falcons have been bringing in most of the major prospects that have a reasonable chance of being available at #24 overall, as well as signficant defensive and tight end prospects. 

Any inferences drawn from those visits are still mere speculation, but since Dimitroff isn't talking, it's the best we've got.  The pattern I've seen is that we haven't worked out the players projected in the #10-18 range or above.  As much as we've heard Smitty and Dimitroff talk about the importance of due diligence and building through the draft, that suggests the Falcons aren't planning on trading up.

The names reportedly coming in for workouts include TEs Jared Cook and Chase Coffman as well as safety Louis Delmas.  Cook and Delmas are currently projected as early second rounders, while Coffman figures to be on the board even when Atlanta picks at #55.  UGA cornerback Asher Allen has also worked out for the team.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com