Posted on: April 24, 2011 1:21 am

The difference a good scout can make...

Just east of the University Of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus, there is a small memorial to honor Dick Corrick, who passed away three years ago.  The sign was placed by a local bicycling club, whose members remember Corrick as an avid cycler and a good friend.
Oregon State alumni and college football historians remember him as the gritty team captain who spearheaded OSU during its heyday in the mid-1950s, playing both center and middle linebacker.  NFL scouts remember him as a legend - a veteran road scout who would always take new scouts under his wing and help them learn the ropes, and perhaps the best eye for talent that the NFL has ever seen.
NFL fans rarely learn the names of scouts and personnel folks outside of General Managers.  Corrick scouted players, evaluated prospects, set up draft boards, and advised coaches and GMs, but he never got his chance to be the one making those personnel decisions.  And that's a shame, because his evaluation skills might have created a dynasty.
He had been a college coach when Packers head coach and GM Dan Devine hired him as a west coast area scout in 1971.  When Bart Starr replaced Devine in 1975, he promoted Corrick to Director of Pro Personnel, and then made him Director of Player Personnel in 1978.  He headed the scouting department and set up the team's draft board.
In his first draft, the Packers landed five starters.  The marquee name was WR James Lofton, who went on to amass 14000 receiving yards in his career.  Joining Lofton were linebackers John Anderson and Mike Douglass, offensive lineman Leotis Harris, and defensive lineman Terry Jones.  Another pick (defensive back Estus Hood) had a seven year career as a key backup.  Their final pick (TE Eason Ramson) also had a long career, though not in Green Bay.
The following draft began well enough, with the Packers taking Georgia Tech star running back Eddie Lee Ivery. But it went downhill from there.  Starr found that his assistant coaches had different ideas than his team of scouts.  Midwest area scout Red Cochran had spent a lot of time tracking a quarterback and urged Starr to draft him.
Corrick agreed with Cochran and recommended that Starr take the QB in the second round.  Instead, the Packers took another running back, Steve Atkins.  Starr passed on the QB again in the third, selecting defensive tackle Charles Jordan.  Neither player panned out for Green Bay.
A few picks later, that quarterback ended up in the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.  His name:  Joe Montana.  
Also of interest for Falcons fans:  had Starr taken Montana in the second round, Corrick had targeted future Atlanta great William Andrews as a potential third rounder.  
"I really like him," Corrick said of Andrews after the young fullback had a chance to play halfback at the Senior Bowl.  "Everybody knew he could block, but he got to really show some things."  
He felt that Andrews could be a second feature runner as well as a lead blocker, giving Green Bay a tandem in Ivery and Andrews that would have rivaled the Steelers pair of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. 
It happened again two years later.  Green Bay held the #6 overall selection.  On the Packers draft board, Corrick had Ronnie Lott far above other players likely to be available.  He urged Starr to select Lott, but the Packers secondary coach wasn't impressed by a private workout.  Corrick persisted and convinced Starr to meet with Lott personally - with Corrick and Starr having dinner with Lott two nights before the draft.
In spite of a strong interview during that dinner meeting, Starr went with his coaching staff. With the sixth overall selection, Green Bay took quarterback Rich Campbell.   
Corrick was in near disbelief.  "I was dumbfounded," he said later. "Lott was as high as you could go in the draft room because the ceiling was there.  Rich Campbell was a couple levels below that."
His own scouting report on Campbell wasn't particularly strong either:  "He couldn't get his team in the end zone. His stats were impressive every week, but he wasn't scoring any touchdowns." 
The follow-up came in the third round.  Corrick was particularly big on offensive lineman Russ Grimm.  His pre draft comments on Grimm:  "He has got great hand use.  He has good balance.  He's stout...  I like his temperament.  I think we have a feel for him that is unbelievable.  But some people are pushing people at other positions."
In the third round, one of those other positions turned out to be punter, as the Packers selected Ray Stachowicz.  The Redskins took Grimm seven picks later.  Stachowicz only lasted two seasons in Green Bay.  Grimm played for 11 seasons and appeared in four Pro Bowls as one of the original Hogs.
A few years later, the Packers fired Starr and the team announced Corrick would have a greater role in personnel matters.  But when the Packers interviewed Forrest Gregg for the head coaching job, Gregg insisted on having full control over personnel.  Team president Robert Parins agreed, and once again Corrick and his scout team would build the draft board - but not make decisions.  
Green Bay paid the price with Gregg's very first draft pick, the #12 overall selection in 1984.  The team had given up its second round pick a few years earlier in a trade to acquire wide receiver John Jefferson from the Chargers, so they needed to make the first round pick count.  
The Packers had Lofton and Jefferson plus a good tight end in Paul Coffman.  But starting quarterback Lynn Dickey would turn 35 during the upcoming season, and the team had no quality backups and no suitable prospect to groom for the future.  
The player at the top of Corrick's draft board was quarterback Boomer Esiason.  He was Corrick's top choice not only at quarterback, but also the top overall prospect among the first round candidates.  Unfortunately, Gregg absolutely insisted the team would draft a defensive player - in spite of Corrick's objection that no defensive player on their board rated highly enough to be worth the pick.
The Packers selected defensive end Alphonso Carreker, and Gregg's answer at quarterback turned out to be Wisconsin's own Randy Wright in the sixth round. Esiason went to the Bengals in the second round, and the Packers were mired at 8-8 for two more seasons before dropping to 4-12.     
Parins then decided to hire former Falcons general manager and Kenosha native Tom Braatz as Executive VP of Football Operations, giving Braatz full control of all personnel matters.  Corrick remained on board as the head of the scouting department.  
Braatz set his sights on taking running back Brent Fullwood with the #4 overall selection.  Corrick objected, questioning Fullwood's reliability, but he had no say in the final decision - he was no longer even in charge of setting up the board.  Fullwood went on to have only one season with more than 500 yards rushing, and he was traded by the Packers after refusing to play in the second half of a game against the division rival Bears.
Corrick finally decided he'd had enough.  After that season, he resigned from the Packers organization in a sideways move to the Houston Oilers.  Health problems forced him to leave the Oilers, and he moved to a position of lesser responsibility as Western area scout with the Falcons.  He underwent a heart procedure, took on a vigorous exercise routine - including cycling - and returned to fitness well enough that he remained with the Falcons into the next decade.  
Corrick's hiring isn't well known among Falcons fans, but it should be heralded as the single best personnel move the team made during Ken Herock's tenure as GM.  He showed once again that a good scout can make a world of difference.  And in those days, Atlanta needed all the help it could get with draft and personnel decisions.
By 1998, the Falcons definitely had Corrick's fingerprints.  
The first player Atlanta selected in 1992 was one scouted by Corrick - offensive tackle Bob Whitfield.  Other key Falcons attributable to Corrick include center Robbie Tobeck, defensive tackle Travis Hall, offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam, linebacker Craig Sauer, defensive end John Burrough, and wide receiver Tim Dwight.  
Danny Mock, who headed Atlanta's scouting department through 1997, described the trade up to get Whitfield as a "no-brainer".  And Corrick certainly wasn't alone in that evaluation - Herock and the coaching staff had all seen plenty of game film and watched Whitfield first hand in workouts before trading up to get him in the first round.  But many other selections were not so well known, and Herock often relied solely on the reports of his scouts when making those decisions.
A key factor was that in those days, the coaching staff typically didn't hang around for the later rounds.  The scouts had more influence later in the draft because they were the only ones left in the room to advise the GM.  "We had a lot of success in the sixth and seventh round in Dick's area, and the coaches weren't involved in the late rounds", said Mock.  "He knew his area.  He's just a very good, detailed scout."
In the 1995 draft, Brigham Young defensive lineman Travis Hall had what Corrick considered the ideal skill set and temperament for a defensive tackle - but was badly undersized.  He slid in the draft because other teams felt he wasn't really a defensive end and questioned whether he could add enough bulk to make it as a tackle.  Corrick convinced Herock that although it would take Hall a few years to add the weight and get stronger, he was a hard-nosed player worth the late round pick.  Herock took him in the sixth.  By 1998, Hall had added 35 pounds, managed to keep his quickness and power, and played as an every-down starter at defensive end.
Likewise, Burrough was a seventh rounder out of Wyoming in 1995, while Sauer was a sixth rounder from Minnesota in 1996.  By 1998, Burrough had become the third defensive end in rotation and Sauer had become a key backup and occasional starter at linebacker.  
Even if it was only because Herock had no coaches in the room to listen to instead of Corrick, he still listened.
Robbie Tobeck was an undersized center who had only started one year at Washington State.  He wasn't widely regarded as a draft prospect in 1994, but he caught Corrick's eye.  Herock went along with Corrick's recommendation to sign him as an undrafted free agent, and Corrick himself had reached an agreement with Tobeck's agent even before the draft.  As soon as the draft ended, the Falcons signed the 265-pounder.  In his second season, he became Atlanta's starting center.  Three years later, he had beefed up to 295 and was a mainstay of the Falcons offensive line.
Of course, no scout hits it with every prospect all the time.  Jerry Rice and Mike Singletary were among the players that Corrick had reservations about while scouting for the Packers.  His biggest error with the Falcons was pushing for a player from his alma mater - Oregon State offensive lineman Alai Kalainuvalu.  The Falcons took him with a late third rounder in 1994.  He didn't make it out of training camp.
But Corrick more than made up for it in that very same draft.  He made a strong recommendation for one fullback prospect that he really liked.  On his recommendation, the team graded him as a potential late second or third rounder as the #2 fullback on the board.  
Here's the rest of the story as told by Herock himself:  "After the third or fourth round Dick kept saying, 'Hey, that guy's still sitting there.  We should draft him.'  I just kept saying, 'We need some other positions.'"  
(Those "other positions" were quarterback Perry Klein from C.W. Post and linebacker Mitch Davis from Georgia in the fourth round, plus Florida wide receiver Harrison Houston in the fifth.  The team had given up its sixth rounder to the Raiders in the ill-fated trade for Eric Dickerson.  Davis and Houston never played a down for Atlanta.  Klein attempted just one pass in the NFL, which was incomplete.  He was also sacked twice.) 
"Finally, we get down to the seventh round and it's like a glaring, glaring mistake," said Herock.  Everyone else up there was gone and we had to take him."
Long time Falcons fans have probably guessed the name of that fullback.  It was Jamal Anderson, the original Dirty Bird.   
Corrick had talked with sports writer Bob McGinn about Anderson a month before the draft, calling him the best fullback he had seen:  "He was 249. He was a legit 4.7 kind of guy.  He doesn't block like you want a fullback to block because this guy has the tailback mentality.  He's been a single back... He has run skills.  He's got great hands."
By the 1998 run to the NFC Championship, the Falcons were on their third head coach and second personnel head since Corrick's arrival.  But Corrick had as much of a hand in building that team as anyone, though hardly anyone outside of the team's Suwanee headquarters knew how great a role he had played.  "Nobody ever talks about this stuff, but I get pretty damn emotional about it at times", Corrick said in an interview during that postseason.  "It's just a nice feeling knowing you have made a contribution."
And that's the difference that one good scout can make.
He retired from the NFL in 2001. He always held loyalties to the Packers and continued to live near Green Bay in the Little Sumiaco area.  He continued riding his bicycle for exercise and joined a local cycling club, riding with them as a group on a weekly basis.  
If you happen to pass through the area, look for the memorial sign along Luxemburg Road .  Saturday marked three years since his passing, shortly after his 74th birthday.

Posted on: April 12, 2010 1:13 pm

This year's best mock draft

We're ten days and counting from showtime.  It's time for the mock drafts out there to start putting in their final entries -  the ones that really matter.

The best one I've seen yet this season was in the Chicago Tribune this weekend.  It's not a one-guy-picks-all deal like we'll get from the so-called gurus who don't spend more than ten minutes becoming familiar with any given team.  Instead, this one is a collective effort, with the beat writers from local papers around the country representing the teams they cover.

So D-Led made the Falcons pick, Rick Stroud of the St Petersburg Times picked for Tampa, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic made the Cardinals pick, etc, etc.   It was compiled by the Trib's Sam Farmer, who did NOT make a pick himself since Da Bears sent their first rounder to Denver last year.

It still has all the flaws of other mocks in that it leaves out trades, is based on voices/opinions from outside team compounds, etc.  But at least the people involved are intimately familiar with the teams they are representing.  That puts it a step ahead of anything we might hear from Todd McShay, Pete Prisco, Don Banks, Peter King, or Darth Helmet Hair this week.

Spoiler alert...   Lindsay Jones of the Denver-Post saved us by taking D-Led's man-crush away from him at #11...

Here are the picks:
1. Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. (pick by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) "They're doing everything but stitching his name on his jersey."

2. Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska. (Nick Cotsonika, Detroit Free Press) "Suh is the smart, multidimensional and productive player the Lions want."

3. Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma. (Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times) "If McCoy or Suh is there, the Buccaneers will run to the commissioner with the card."

4. Redskins: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State. (Rick Maese, Washington Post) " Donovan McNabb will have someone to protect his blind side, a luxury Jason Campbell didn't often have."

5. Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee. (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star) "It's been close to 10 years since the Chiefs have had a playmaking safety in the secondary."

6. Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma. (Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times) "His athleticism makes him a better fit than Iowa's Brian Bulaga for Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme."

7. Browns: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame. (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) "The Browns could try to trade the pick, draft Clausen and trade him or draft him and keep him. They also like Colt McCoy."

8. Raiders: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland. (Jerry McDonald, Oakland Tribune) "There's a 50-50 shot they take Campbell, but they'd probably take Trent Williams over him."

9. Bills: OT Brian Bulaga, Iowa. (Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News) "The left tackle position torpedoed the entire team last year. The Bills would be happy to get any of the top guys."

10. Jaguars: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama. (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) "The Jaguars are short on linebackers. Question is, is McClain better than the best defensive end on the board?"

11. Broncos: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida. (Lindsay Jones, Denver Post) "This is a bit high for a center, but the Broncos don't have one. If they were to line up today, they'd have nobody to snap the ball."

12. Dolphins: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel) "Dez Bryant is looking for a father figure, and Bill Parcells wouldn't mind being one. The Dolphins need a difference maker at receiver."

13. 49ers: CB Joe Haden, Florida. (Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat) "The 49ers need help in the secondary, and their corners aren't great. Haden would be a good pick at a high-profile position of need."

14. Seahawks: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson. (O'Neil) "Seattle is one of four teams not to have a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the past four seasons. Spiller would be an instant upgrade at the position."

15. Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida. (Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News) "He's a freakish athlete, and the Giants have some uncertainty at the position, especially with Osi Umenyiora unhappy."

16. Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. (Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean) "The Titans are in desperate need of an impact player at the position after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency."

17. 49ers: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers. ( Dan Brown, San Jose Mercury News) "The 49ers sorely need offensive line help, and Mike Singletary's presence will help allay concerns about Davis' character."

18. Steelers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho. (Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) "The Steelers need to start getting some studs on their offensive line, and Iupati certainly is that. He's a safe pick for them."

19. Falcons: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri. (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) "With Mike Peterson turning 34, the Falcons need a run-and-hit linebacker who's adept in coverage."

20. Texans: S Earl Thomas, Texas. (Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle) "The Texans really need some help in the secondary, and Thomas has the type of ballhawking skills they could use."

21. Bengals: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. (Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer) "Tight end is a real weakness for the Bengals. They need a guy who can both block and stretch the field."

22. Patriots: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas. (Karen Guregian, Boston Herald) "Kindle fits the physical prototype the Patriots like for an OLB/DE. They also like Michigan's Brandon Graham."

23. Packers: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State. (Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) " Al Harris is 35 and coming off reconstructive knee surgery; Charles Woodson is 33. Robinson fills a real need."

24. Eagles: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State. (Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer) "With Sheldon Brown gone to Cleveland, the Eagles need a cornerback who can step right into the starting lineup."

25. Ravens: DT Jared Odrick, Penn State. (Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Sun) "The Ravens need youth on the defensive line, and Odrick would fit right into their 3-4 scheme."

26. Cardinals: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee. (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) "The Cardinals have been searching for a 3-4 nose tackle ever since Ken Whisenhunt arrived. They need somebody who can hold the middle."

27. Cowboys: OT Charles Brown, USC. (Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) "With Flozell Adams gone, the Cowboys have a hole at the position. Brown not only fills an area of need, but he fits in that draft slot."

28. Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State. (Jay Paris, North County Times) "LaDainian Tomlinson is gone, and the Chargers have a void at running back. They'll hope to get Alabama DT Terrence Cody in the second."

29. Jets: DE Brandon Graham, Michigan. (Rich Cimini, New York Daily News) "One of the problems the Jets had on defense was they had to blitz a lot of guys to get pressure. They need a pass rusher."

30. Vikings: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers. (Judd Zulgad, Minneapolis Star Tribune) "Depth at corner is a problem for the Vikings, who have had health problems at the position. They really like McCourty."

31. Colts: DT Brian Price, UCLA. (Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star) "The Colts failed in their attempt to get better on the defensive line last offseason. The bid continues this year."

32. Saints: OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU. (Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune) "Hughes might be a 'tweener for a 4-3 defense, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will find a way to fit him in."

Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am

The list of affected free agents

The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped.  The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.

The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time.  For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency.  Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents.  Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents.  But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.

The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year.  And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency.  So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.

Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts.  There are several levels of tenders.  If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away.  At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.

Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player.  It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.

According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected.  These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal. 

Here's the list:

Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.

Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.

Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.

Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.

Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.

Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.

Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.

Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.

Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.

Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.

Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.

Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.

Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.

Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.

Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.

Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.

Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.

Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.

New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.

New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.

New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.

New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.

Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.

Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.

San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.

Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.

San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.

St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.

Tennessee Titans -  DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.

Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Posted on: October 11, 2008 6:06 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2008 1:50 am

week 5 / 6 notes

The middle of the Falcon defensive line is still being held together with duct tape and silly putty.  But so far, it's working - most of the time.   The Bucs figured out how to attack straight up the middle on runs, and the Panthers ran at the substitutes - wherever they were.  Green Bay did a little of the same, but it wasn't enough to steal the win away from Atlanta.

I posted an entry earlier that listed the full rotation patterns for an entire game.  The team is sticking to that basic pattern -  making up for the lack of size through frequent rotations.  They're keeping Abraham and Jackson fresh by regularly getting them off the field.  The catch is that when Babineaux and Jamaal also rotate out, the team ends up with a line of Biermann, Moorehead, Fraser, and Davis.   A power running attack (for example, this weekend's opponents - Da Bears) should be able to plow right over this undersized group. 

At this point, hardly anyone is still writing about how the Falcons passed up the chance to draft Glenn Dorsey in order to pick Matt Ryan.  But it should be noted that they had other opportunities to snare larger DTs, both in the draft and in free agency, and passed.  They also had Rashad Moore in camp but released him at the final roster deadline. 

It now appears that 320-325 pound DT Trey Lewis will likely be moved to IR from the inactive/non-football injury list, so if there's any help on the way, it will be from outside the organization.  We're coming up on the trade deadline.  Anything that is going to happen will happen soon.  Stay tuned...


Some noteworthy plays from Week 5 against the Packers:

10:35 1st quarter, ATL 3rd-goal at GB 1:   The Packer defense stuffs the Falcon run on a goal line stand.  I think this is just the second time this season that Atlanta hasn't converted a short yardage run.

The following 4th down play saw the Falcons use a three tight end formation.  Weiner was up on the line on the left side, with Hartsock on the right side.   Peelle was slightly behind the line on the left side.  The play was a run/pass option with Hartsock and Peelle as the potential receivers and Turner up the middle or Ryan on the bootleg as the potential runners.

The TV replay did a nice job of showing how Peelle ran across the field behind the line and ended up catching the pass on the right sideline.  Hartsock was probably intended as the primary receiver.  He did the usual chip block followed by a curl in the end zone.  As Ryan rolled out, Hartsock would be directly in front of the QB for the easy short pass.  That's predictable enough, but here's the twist:  the Packers focused on this obvious target, creating a moment of hesitation that allowed Peelle to gain a step.  Ryan simply threw it to him instead.

9:45 1st quarter, GB 1-10 at GB 21:  on Green Bay's very first play from scrimmage, Jamaal and Babineaux both bull-rushed their opposing linemen.  They collapsed the pocket and forced Rodgers to step up, right into the belly of Grady Jackson for the sack.   Grady gets the credit in the box score, but Babs and Jamaal should be remembered for causing that sack.

1:59 1st quarter, ATL 1-10 at ATL 47:   this is just one of at least a dozen plays I could have picked out for this comment.  The Falcon offensive line was getting a great push all day long and opening nice holes.  Turner frequently didn't get touched until he had already gained four or five yards.  This particular play went for a gain of eight. 

9:49 2nd quarter, GB 3-1 at ATL 44:   Never mind Grimes.  Chalk this one to Coleman.  This bomb from Rodgers to Driver came on a 3rd and 1 play, so the Falcon defense was focused on stopping a run.  Milloy played up and charged at the line on the fake handoff, leaving Coleman as the only safety in coverage.   Coleman took himself out of the play by allowing Driver to get far behind him.   That's a cardinal sin in a cover-two scheme.

9:38 2nd quarter, ATL 1-10 at ATL 10:   This is something else that was repeated throughout the game.  Green Bay showed six defenders in the box on this first down play, but at the snap they slid two more into the middle.  So when Turner received the handoff, he was running straight into an eight man defensive front.  The result was a mere 1 yard gain.

Later on, the announcers noted that GB had six in the box and projected that Atlanta would likely run.  The Falcons passed instead, and the commentator (Tony Boselli) quipped that it showed why he was a tackle rather than a quarterback.  But they never explained why the Falcons might have wanted to avoid the run against just a six man front.  Well, this play was an example of how the Pack used movement before and at the snap to mix things up.   The six in the box you see isn't necessarily the defense you'll get.

Side note:   the Falcons might be starting to move up the network hierarchy.  After four games on FOX with Pitts and Boselli (plus one on CBS with that network's bottom of the barrel crew), this weekend's game will be with Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick.   That will be an interesting twist for Falcons fans.  Smith was an assistant to Billick for four years in Baltimore, and before that they had coached together at San Diego State.  Also, they're in-laws -  their wives are sisters.

8:48 2nd quarter, ATL 1-10 at ATL 31:   Green Bay calls time out.  The reason was that the Packers had too many men on the field.  There were twelve in position, and yet another ran onto the field for the time out signal.   The TV crew missed that this was the reason for the time out, but they caught it when Atlanta had the same problem with 5:23 remaining in the 4th quarter.

7:59 2nd quarter, ATL 3-10 at ATL 31:   With the Falcons facing a 3rd and long, Green Bay brought the heat.  Or at least they tried to, as the Falcon line was up to the task.   The blitz left the Packers short a defender in the middle of the field, which is exactly where Ryan hit a wide open Roddy White on a crossing route.   The play gained 26 yards.  

The Falcons then went no-huddle.  Two plays later, the Packers blitzed again.  Turner picked it up, and the play went for a 14 yard completion to Peelle.  Two more no-huddle plays later was the 22 yard TD pass to Roddy.  

Two major keys to that drive:  (1) the Falcons prevented Green Bay from substituting by going no-huddle, and (2) the Packers got no pressure at all on Ryan even with the blitz.

0:36 2nd quarter, ATL 1-20 at ATL 45:   After the 10 yard penalty on Dahl knocked the Falcons back into their own territory, Ryan hit Roddy for a 10 yard gain.  Roddy was on the ground and was obviously touched down by contact, yet for some freakish reason he got up and started running with the ball.   After he finally realized the play was dead, he turned and flipped the ball to an official far downfield and on the sideline.  Fourteen seconds ran off the clock from the time he was touched down by contact until the time Ryan spiked the ball to stop the clock.  The spike cost the Falcons a down, giving them 3rd and 10 instead of 2nd and 10.  

Obvious question #1:   what the heck was Roddy thinking??   Obvious question #2:  why didn't somebody - ANYBODY - call time out as soon as White was touched down without getting out of bounds?  They were still ten yards from the first down marker, so they couldn't afford to sacrifice a down just to stop the clock anyway.  Those mental lapses killed the drive, as they were unable to convert the third down play.   It didn't do them any good to take their two time outs into the locker room at halftime.

10:05 3rd quarter, GB 2-20 at GB 46:   This is the play where Rodgers had Jennings wide open and simply underthrew him.  The first noteworthy item is that the Falcons came with just a 3 man rush, yet were still able to get at least a hint of pressure as Rodgers was forced to move and threw a little off balance.   So kudos to the d-line for winning a 3 on 5, but there's still the huge question:  with eight men in coverage, how on earth could the secondary completely lose track of Jennings in the deep zone?   Where the heck were the safeties?? 

8:07 3rd quarter, ATL 1-10 at ATL 42:   Did you notice those nice graphics the network ran showing that Ryan had not been sacked and had been knocked down only once?   Here's the knock-down.  Peelle didn't pick up the outside rusher.  Instead he went downfield to block a linebacker in the middle and let the man up at the line have a free path to Ryan.   Ryan unloaded it quickly, but he threw it earlier than he had intended.  Michael Jenkins was never able to pick up sight of the ball.  

15:00 4th quarter, ATL 3-5 at ATL 25:   There had to be a mixup in coverage by Green Bay on this play.  They came with a four man rush and still had absolutely no one in the shorter zone in the middle of the field.  When the pocket opened up, Ryan had an empty ZIP code in front of him and simply ran forward for 17 yards. 

9:18 4th quarter, ATL 2-1 at GB 39:   Another short yardage running situation.   Ovie picks up nine on his very first carry of the season.  What took them so long to let him run with it?

4:42 4th quarter, GB 3-19 at GB 21:   If you get another chance to see the replay of the interception by Boley, take a look farther down the field at the intended receiver and the rest of the coverage.  Grimes had position and was making his cut in front of Martin for the pick, but the ball never got there as Boley snagged it first.   In other words, this pass by Rodgers was doomed from the moment it left Aaron's hand.  

3:45 4th quarter, ATL 2-5 at GB 14:   This wouldn't have bothered me had it not been for the mental lapse that cost the Falcons at the end of the first half.   The rule is that if a player goes out of bounds, the clock stops until the ref spots it and blows the whistle to start play.  At that point, the clock starts running again.  The exception is in the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the game.  In that time, if a player goes out of bounds, the clock stops and does not start again until the ball is snapped.

Turner got around the end for yet another nice run, gaining 12.  But he went out of bounds, stopping the clock.   The Falcons scored on the next play, which also stopped the clock.  The net result was that two running plays took just ten seconds, leaving 3:35 for Green Bay to try to answer - which they did.    The Falcons need to work on their clock management and situational awareness. 

1:42 4th quarter, ATL 3-1 at GB 38:   After the failed onsides kick, all Atlanta needs is a first down to ice the game.  On 3rd and 1, Green Bay stacks 9 in the box, with a tenth man up on the line coming around the end.  The packers do get into the backfield, but they can't make the stop.  On the previous play, the line yet another great push and hole to allow Turner an eight yard gain.  But this one was all Michael Turner.

General notes:   the Falcon defense showed they are still vulnerable in the middle zones and still vulnerable to running plays up the middle whenever Grady is off the field.   The Packer defensive line was short its best pass rusher, but Atlanta's offensive line was still impressive.  They frequently had a two yard push on running plays, opened holes all day long for Turner, and gave up no sacks for the second time this season.


Category: NFL
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