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Tag:Peria Jerry
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: May 6, 2010 3:41 pm
 

Players on the hot seat

The basic Falcons 53-man roster typically consists of 3 QB, 5 RB/FB, 3 TE, 5 WR, 9 OL, 5 DE, 4 DT, 6 LB, 5 CB, 4 S, 1 P, 1 K, 1 LS, and one at-large spot. 

The at-large spot is completely up for grabs and likely to change during the season.  The team briefly had six defensive ends in 2008 and finished the season with ten offensive linemen.  Last season began with six cornerbacks but ended with an extra running back.

The team will naturally make tweaks as needed, such as in 2008 when they carried only 4 runners (with the fifth on the practice squad) in order to start the year with extra depth elsewhere.  But for the most part, that's what we can expect for the 2010 team.

I made a list of what I call the late season 2009 roster.  With injuries and replacements, it's difficult to nail down one set of 53 players as "the" roster.  But these were the players who were aboard for most of November and December.

Eight players from that list are now gone.   Eight incoming or returning players are penciled in as locks to make the roster:  Harry Douglas (assuming he's medically cleared), Peria Jerry, William Moore, Dunta Robinson, Sean Weatherspoon, Corey Peters, Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley.

The catch is that while some are easy one-for-one swaps (Douglas replaces Marty Booker, Sean Weatherspoon replaces Tony Gilbert), others are not (Corey Peters and Mike Johnson replace ????).  There are also many other returning or incoming players that will offer strong competition for roster spots.  And Smitty has already made the first "nobody is safe" reference of the year. 

So the key question is which players from last season are on the hot seat in camp this summer?

I've pegged as many as twenty that are at risk.  I think eight of them are probably safe, but the other twelve are in real danger of losing their roster spots.  Starting with the offense, they are:


1)  Eric Weems.  He made the roster last season for his potential as a return man, not strictly as a wide receiver.  He'll have a good shot at playing a few years in the NFL off of his special teams skills, but the fifth round of the draft may have sealed his fate in Atlanta.  The Falcons drafted potential return man Dominique Franks and potential WR Kerry Meier with their two fifth round picks.

Weems will also have to compete with returning practice squad candidates Troy Bergeron and Andy Strickland plus undrafted free agent Ryan Wolfe and two others just to have a shot at the at-large spot as a sixth WR.  And that DUI arrest in November certainly doesn't help his cause.


2)  Brian Finneran.  While Weems figures to be the first WR replaced, if both Meier and Wolfe stick (or if Bergeron, Strickland, Brandyn Harvey or converted quarterback Tim Buckley amaze the coaches), Finn may have a tough time returning once more.

His latest knee injury isn't anywhere near as bad as the two that sidelined him in consecutive seasons, but he's now 34.  He wasn't all that fast to begin with, so he can't afford to lose a step due to age or injury.


3)  Will Svitek.  He was an interesting addition to last year's roster and played competently as a backup.  But he's not a starting caliber player, and that's not likely to change in camp this year.


4)  Quinn Ojinnaka.  He can play any position on the offensive line.  So can third round pick Mike Johnson.  And the coaching staff chose Svitek to fill in for Sam Baker last season at left tackle.  If Svitek is still the choice at the end of preseason, Ojinnaka may be the one bumped out to make room for Johnson.

Ojinnaka is also the only backup lineman who was not brought into the organization under Smitty and Dimitroff.  I'm not saying Smitty and his staff will play favorites, but it's a factor.  Ojinnaka is a holdover from the Jim Mora days and was drafted because he fit the Alex Gibbs blocking scheme.  Everyone else was hand picked by Smitty and Dimitroff because they fit the current Falcons scheme. 


5)  Brett Romberg.  Yep, three of the four backup linemen are at risk.  Romberg played for Boudreau in St. Louis, and the Rams thought enough of him to start him. He's a solid - and experienced - backup. He's definitely a handy guy to have around.

But Mike Johnson probably takes over the #3 guard role this year, and the arrival of Joe Hawley puts his backup center role at risk.  To date, Romberg hasn't been a real candidate to play tackle, plus the team chose Ojinnaka ahead of Romberg to fill in for Harvey Dahl at guard.

If the team once again keeps only nine total linemen, these three are all at serious risk.  Johnson and Hawley will make the roster, so two guys will have to go to make room for them.  Prospects Jose Valdez and Rob Bruggeman are knocking on the door as well.



6)  Matt Bryant.  The Falcons had a steady-Freddy but aging kicker in Jason Elam to start the 2009 season.  They finished with another in Matt Bryant. 

He's about to turn 35 later this month.  He was 1 for 4 from 40+ yards last season after going 5 of 11 and 6 of 10 from 40+ the previous two seasons with the Buccaneers.  He's rock steady from inside 40, but that means the Falcons would have to get inside the 23-yard line to feel confident in making a field goal.  That's not good.

The team added Steven Hauschka for insurance in the final week of the season, as Bryant came away from the Bills game a bit gimpy.  Hauschka has a strong leg but missed a pair of shorter field goal attempts that cost him his spot with the Ravens.  If he can work out the mechanics, he's a strong contender.

And then there's the rookie, Garrett Lindholm.  He was mainly on the national radar for this:

In the playoffs, no time left, game on the line...


He turned it on his senior year, but his sophomore and junior year stats certainly won't blow you away.  And he definitely needs work on his mechanics if he is to maintain consistency, as you'll see in one of the clips below.   I don't know if he's the answer.  I think I might have preferred signing Damon Duval when we had the chance.

Some highlights (no sound)

Workout results... he made the 49-yarder but missed several shorter ones...

At the very least, Lindholm will add competition.  But my guess is that if Hauschka turns it on, he'll be the man.



7)  Joe Zelenka.  Joe who?  I'm sure many of you don't really care who takes the long snapper job.  But keep in mind that after Mike Schneck went on IR last year, replacement Bryan Pittman, holder Michael Koenen and kicker Jason Elam just couldn't get in sync, costing the Falcons at least one game and chances at winning two more.

Zelenka did well enough as the second replacement, but he hardly has a lock on the position the way Schneck might have had he not decided to retire.  The competition comes from undrafted rookie Justin Drescher, who has plenty of college experience after serving as Colorado's long snapper in all four years. 



8)  Coy Wire.  Frankly, I found it hard to believe he was included in the "On The Fringe" TV series last year.  There was no doubt in my mind that he'd make the roster.  He still has a strong chance this year, but it will be a little more challenging.

The catch is that if Sean Weatherspoon takes over as the starting Will backer, Mike Peterson would then drop down to the #4 overall LB.  So unless the team drops Peterson off the roster completely, Wire would then drop to #5, pretty much limiting him to special teams duty. 

So far, no problem there - he's our special teams captain.  And there isn't a need to drop anyone to make room for 'Spoon, as Tony Gilbert was not re-signed. 

But most teams prefer to have younger guys with upside potential filling those spots on the back end of the roster.  He'd be competing not only with the younger linebacker prospects, but also with the new safeties (Matt Giordano and Shann Schillinger) as special teams players.

I was hesitant to include him on this list, as he was solid as a replacement for Michael Boley in 2008 and has been outstanding on special teams. He's a fine player.  The question is whether the team would continue to keep a guy with zero remaining upside as the #5 LB.



9)  Spencer Adkins.  If Wire does stay aboard as the #5 LB, then Adkins will have to step up big in his second year or face competition for the #6 spot.  He was on the inactive list for most of the season, but the team worked him in on special teams for a few games when the WRs and safeties were so banged up.

The competition will come from 2008 fifth rounder Robert James and from this year's undrafted prospects, Bear Woods and Weston Johnson.

While it seems like a reach for one of the undrafted prospects to unseat a drafted player from the roster, keep in mind that it was considered a big stretch when the Falcons drafted Adkins in the sixth round in 2009 - mainly because of his blazing fast 40 time.  He was otherwise figured to be an undrafted free agent himself.

So once you put their projections on an even footing, there's a lot to be said for the rest of the pack.  Adkins was only a part time player for Miami.  Meanwhile, Weston Johnson was named team captain at Wyoming, while Bear Woods was the leading tackler at Troy.  The competition will be quite real.


10)  Trey Lewis.  Smitty said he was excited to have Lewis back last season, and that Lewis gave the team potential to work in some 3-4 as a package defense.  But it turned out that Lewis was far from full speed in his first season back from two reconstructive knee surgeries.  He spent most of the year as the #4 (inactive) DT, taking the 3-4 package off the table.

On the plus side, he showed as a rookie that when healthy, he can play either DT spot.  He's not strictly a nose tackle.  And his size adds an element that no other DT on the roster can bring.  If his knee will allow him to get back to form, he has a good chance of winning the #4 DT job again this year, serving as the #3 while Babs is out.

But he'll have to turn it up this summer or he'll be off the roster when Babs returns, if not sooner.



11)  Thomas Johnson.  I can't say enough good things about the job he did last season.  He truly was our Out Of Nowhere player for the 2009 season. 

The guy was an undrafted free agent who had already been released by three different teams and hadn't played a game since 2006.  He signed with the Falcons as a futures contract.  He wasn't expected to make the roster at all but ended up as our starting nose tackle.

Now move ahead a year...  Peria Jerry is expected to return, and the team has added Corey Peters.  Johnson is expendable, and he probably has the least potential upside of the backup candidates.  It's a brutal fact of life in the NFL.



12)  Vance Walker.  It shouldn't be a surprise that all three backup DTs are at major risk.  Unless one wins the at-large spot, the Falcons will have two DTs too many after Babs returns from suspension.  And that's not even counting Joe Klecko or Trey Bryant as serious candidates or DEs sliding in to play the middle.

The seventh rounder started the season on the practice squad and is still practice squad eligible.  If all else is equal between the three backup DTs, the coaching staff may try to keep them all for the start of the season by stashing Walker back on the practice squad.





Noteworthy players left off the list:

Brian Williams:  the only reason he's not on the list above is that he wasn't on the late 2009 roster in the first place, so he didn't have a roster spot to lose. 

Otherwise, he might be the most at risk player of all.  He's still far from 100% and won't be back until at least the start of training camp.  If his recovery takes longer, he may end up starting the year on the PUP list or get released on an injury settlement as Von Hutchins was last year.

If he's healthy, his main value (and best chance at making the roster) is that he can play safety as well as CB.  He would likely be the top contender for the #4 safety role. 



Jamaal Anderson, Chauncey Davis:  if the Falcons had brought in a serious DE candidate, it would be obvious that one of these two would have to go.  But the team appears to be standing pat, bringing in only a pair of undrafted candidates to replace Maurice Lucas on the practice squad.

I won't say they're definitely safe, but at least for now there is room to fit all five DEs on the roster.  Unlike the DTs, they aren't in a spot where somebody HAS to go...  yet... 



Chris Owens, Brent Grimes:  the rookie Owens worked his way into the starting rotation, plus he's a Dimitroff prospect.  He isn't going anywhere.  Many fans don't care for Grimes, but he entered the season with just eight total games of experience.  He was essentially a rookie too.  He led the team with six interceptions.  The last time any Falcons player had more was 1998 (Ray Buchanan, with seven).

If Williams isn't healthy or makes the roster as a safety, or if Franks gets the at-large spot as a return specialist, everyone in the room could make the roster.  Only one CB absolutely had to go, and Tye Hill's release settled the question of who it would be.



Justin Peelle, Keith Zinger:  they certainly aren't safe, but the three prospects brought in this season aren't as much of a threat as the incoming DTs or offensive linemen.  While Colin Peek and Michael Palmer are both contenders, the Falcons may choose to start them on the practice squad as they did with Zinger in 2008.



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: September 19, 2009 3:07 am
 

Defensive line rotations, week one

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the defensive line personnel for each play:



First defensive series

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

Second defensive series

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

2nd quarter, Third defensive series

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

Fourth defensive series

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

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

3rd quarter, Sixth defensive series

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

Seventh defensive series

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

Eighth defensive series

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

Ninth defensive series

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

4th quarter, Tenth defensive series

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

Eleventh defensive series

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





Posted on: 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. 



 
 
 
 
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