Tag:Rob Bruggeman
Posted on: April 22, 2012 4:19 pm

Pre-draft notes: offensive line

The first question....  should we really be bummed out about our line heading into the new season?  No doubt, their play left a lot to be desired last season.  They had three pretty good years in 2008-2010 but then fell flat in 2011. 

The verdict from our braintrust was that it was a coaching issue as much as a personnel issue.  Line coach Paul Boudreau was sacked.  On the personnel side, the right guard position was identified as the weakest link in the chain.  Vince Manuwai was signed to plug that gap.

My take:  I agree with the decision.  Boudreau was a highly experienced coach who did well in 2008-2010, but he really dropped the ball badly last year.  Our linemen simply weren't well prepared and didn't play fundamentally sound football.  They were up high all season, getting no leverage and getting pushed back into the backfield.  Michael Turner typically had first contact a yard behind the line.  If he made three yards after contact, that was still only good enough for a two yard gain.

I suspect that Boudreau had a hand in going with two older journeymen (no upside) rather than two of our own prospects last year.  Throw in the awful idea to play Sam Baker at right guard when he had only had one full practice after his back surgery, and the decision to make a coaching change seems pretty obvious.

And Manuwai is an upgrade over any of Kynan Forney, Harvey Dahl, Garrett Reynolds or Joe Hawley at the right guard position.  Great move there.  Manuwai and Clabo provide a whole lot of beef on the right side.

Second question:   what's the answer at left tackle?   The team has publicly stood behind Sam Baker, noting that he played through injury all year.   (Key:  he was experiencing back problems even in preseason.  He tried to play through it, was horrible, and finally opted to have surgery when it became obvious that he wasn't capable of getting the job done otherwise.)

Fortunately, Will Svitek stepped up in Baker's absence last year and showed that he can be a competent left tackle.  He may not be Pro Bowl material, but his play (including utterly shutting down Jared Allen) was good enough to put him above average among starting LTs.  If it comes down to it, we do have a Plan B.

Many of us want to see an upgrade in free agency, particularly Marcus McNeill.  And yes, McNeill backed up by Svitek does have a pretty sweet sound to it.  But will it happen? 

My take:   don't count on it.  The odds are against it.  McNeill is visiting many other teams and will likely have other options.  Even if we move out Baker to clear cap room, we'll be hard pressed to fit McNeill under the cap.  Another team could easily outspend us and land the free agent.

As for Baker, never mind his skill level.  We're talking about a 300-pound man who makes a living throwing his body into other large people and has already had two back surgeries in the last four years.  Do we really expect him to hold up the entire season without more health concerns?

I wouldn't bet on it.  But I do have confidence in Svitek.  I'd hope that the team would forget about trying to work Mike Johnson at guard and let him practice at tackle instead.  He has the potential to be our future left tackle -  he did pave the way for a national championship at Alabama at LT, after all.  If Baker ended up on IR, Svitek backed up by Johnson could work, *if* the coaches do practice Johnson at tackle.

Third question...   do we use one of those top draft picks on a lineman? 

A lot of "big name" mock drafts now have the Falcons going with an offensive lineman at the #55 pick.  We're talking about a late second rounder here, so just about anything is possible.  But I wouldn't be so hasty as to identify the OL as the most likely area that Dimitroff will target with our top pick. 

Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have tried to go with nine offensive linemen on the roster when possible.  Counting Baker and Jackson, we currently have ten.   Even if Baker does become a cap casualty or lands on IR in preseason, someone else would have to go to make room for an incoming rookie -  who would spend 2012 and likely 2013 on the bench anyway.

So suppose we did take a second round lineman to groom as a future LT.  The most likely casualty would be that Jackson returns to the practice squad this season.  Johnson would be worked as a backup guard rather than potentially returning him to tackle (where he played at Alabama).

If we get the right guy, he might be an upgrade.  But would it be enough of an upgrade to be worth spending the second or third round pick?   Probably not.  We have more obvious needs elsewhere, and Dimitroff openly admits he's a needs-based GM in the draft.

My take:  the main roster is probably fine as it is.  Where we really need to reload is on the practice squad.  We lost Rob Bruggeman when we opted to bring back Boudreau favorite Brett Romberg.  We lost Jose Valdez to our former QB coach when we opted to sign Kirk Chambers rather than promote Valdez.  If Jackson makes the main roster, the developmental pool will be empty.

So look for plenty of undrafted free agents and perhaps a late rounder (such as the compensatory pick).  But I do hope that Dimitroff will address more important needs with the earlier picks.

The big picture...  the whole thing really hinges on Pat Hill doing a better job preparing his men than Boudreau did last year.  If Hill can get it done, we'll be fine.   One potential combination:  we might end up with Svitek, Justin Blalock, Joe Hawley, Manuwai and Tyson Clabo as the starting five, backed up by Johnson, McClure, Jackson and Reynolds.

That's actually a pretty darn good group.  But it still depends on new coach Pat Hill having them ready to go.  Even in December, last year's team looked like it was still in preseason mode.  Hill will have to have them much more prepared this year.

Posted on: August 19, 2010 1:34 am

offensive personnel - Chiefs preseason game

Initial kick return unit = Eric Weems (KR) with Ovie Mughelli, Stephen Nicholas, Brett Romberg, Corey Peters, Justin Peelle, Kerry Meier, Jason Snelling, Sean Weatherspoon, Chris Owens, ? (Kroy Biermann?)

1st offensive series: starters, with Brian Finneran replacing Michael Jenkins

(my note:  2 TE formations were effective in power running game, with extra TE sometimes acting as a fullback rather than blocking at the end of the line)

2nd offensive series:  Michael Turner is finished, but Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White are still in.  Still the first unit offensive line and regular receivers, with Weems as 3rd WR.

(my note:  Matt Ryan ran some no-huddle on this drive, including plays with a single back.  The running game bogged down without the fullback.)

3rd offensive series:  Chris Redman in at QB.  Brett Romberg in at center.  Rest of starting linemen still in game.  Now seeing Antone Smith and Dimitri Nance at RB.  Snelling now playing FB.

(my note:  the line sure made a mess of this series.  Looked to me like Nance may have missed a play call on 3rd and 15.  I was expecting him to stay in and block, but he went out on a short route instead.)

first PUNT COVERAGE unit:  Michael Koenen and Joe Zelenka as specialists, Dominique Franks and Shann Schillinger as the gunners, with Kroy Biermann, Kerry Meier, Weatherspoon, Mughelli, Snelling, Nicholas, and Finneran.

4th offensive series:  still the other starters and Romberg on the line.

5th offensive series:  new line from left to right = Will Svitek, Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, Garrett Reynolds, Quinn Ojinnaka.  I wasn't expecting to see QO at RT.


6th offensive series:  still Redman at QB.  Dan Klecko now in at FB. Romberg back at center.  Ojinnaka slides to RG, with Jose Valdez coming in at RT.  Looks like it will be Smith and Nance the rest of the way at RB.

(my note:  Snelling did lead blocking for Smith and Nance in the first half but had no FB for his own carries after Mughelli came out.  Keep an eye to see whether the running game perks up again with a FB in the remaining preseason games.)

7th offensive series:  John Parker Wilson now in at QB.  Hawley and Reynolds return at C and RG, respectively.  Kerry Meier and Troy Bergeron are the main two receivers at this point, with Michael Palmer at TE, Keith Zinger coming in as the second TE, and Brandyn Harvey as third receiver.

(my note:  JPW looks good.) 

8th offensive series:  Quinn Ojinnaka now at LT, Blake Schlueter at LG, Rob Bruggeman at RG.  Still Hawley and Valdez at C and RT.  Bergeron and Meier are the main two WRs, with Andy Strickland and Harvey getting some reps as well.

9th offensive series:  Ryan Wolfe getting some snaps as 3rd WR, with Robbie Agnone getting in as a second TE.

last PUNT:  Brandyn Harvey and Antone Smith were the gunners.

Posted on: March 21, 2010 2:00 am

pro day / private workout updates

The news is now out that the Falcons did private workouts with the two TCU linebacker prospects, Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington. 

But the big news is that Sean Weatherspoon himself reported that his Wednesday morning workout with the Falcons was "stellar".  He was stoked about it (including the part where Atlanta's staff put him through Q&A on the whiteboard) and got on the phone with former and possible future teammate William Moore soon afterwards.  He really thinks Atlanta may be the team that takes him.

Also, here's an interesting interview with 'Spoon from before Wednesday's workout:


WR Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green was somehow left off of the Combine invite list, in spite of leading the galaxy in receiving yards this season, becoming a one-man show at the Humanitarian Bowl, and also being an offensive hero of the East-West Shrine Game.

So his pro day workout was the first chance teams had to see him in the Combine-style drills.  The one knock on him has always been a supposed lack of speed.  He reportedly ran the 40 at his pro day at about 4.60.

According to the sports blog of Bowling Green's newspaper, the Falcons were one of fourteen NFL teams attending his workout.  Many of us love the guy.  We don't know how the Falcons feel, but at least they were interested enough to be one of those fourteen teams.  That's good enough for me.  At least he's on our radar.

Hassers has already posted (on the Falcons message board) that the Falcons are holding workouts with several of the top center prospects.  Daryl Ledbetter at the AJC will be happy to note that Florida's center Maurkice Pouncey is now one of them.  (After two weeks of insisting that we'll be taking Pouncey with the #19 pick, D-Led has finally come back to earth and switched to 'Spoon in this weekend's update to his mock.) 

Various reports also have Atlanta personnel attending the pro days of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Missouri State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Michigan State, Missouri State, Virginia, Temple, Middle Tennessee State, West Virginia, Marshall, and Fresno State.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions on who we might have been scouting at each of those workouts.

I haven't confirmed yet whether we attended the other southeastern school pro day workouts (Clemson, Florida, FSU, etc).  To my knowledge our scouts and/or others were scheduled to attend pretty much all of them, but I don't have 100% certainty yet.

One that has been confirmed:  the Falcons did NOT attend Tennessee State's workout.  In the past they had shown interest in safety prospect Anthony Levine.  But according to the Bears beat writer, we didn't show for his pro day:


Other private workout news has the Falcons conducting or scheduling workouts with Indiana OT Roger Saffold, Penn St. linebacker Sean Lee, and unconfirmed reports on working out a couple of TE prospects.

Brandon Graham did not participate in Michigan's pro day due to a hamstring problem but has another workout session scheduled (along with CB Donovan Warren) for April 8.

Haven't heard if Atlanta was there to see LeGarrette Blount, but he reportedly made nice improvements in his 40 time.  His time at the Combine was above 4.8, and he was timed in the mid 4.6 range in his pro day workout.  That's not blazing speed, but it's certainly good enough for a guy who is billed as a power runner.

Coming up next week =  the Mississippi and North Carolina schools, plus Miami, Notre Dame, Arizona State, the Iowa and Nevada schools, and Boise St.   The official pro days run through April 1.  Several prospects have scheduled their own individual pro days for the following week.

Also coming up early next week (possibly even Monday around noon) -  the announcement of the compensatory picks.  We'll find out if Domonique Foxworth got us a fourth rounder or a third, and we'll also find out if we got that late seventh rounder.


So...  we're looking at several potential #19 prospects, several linebackers, centers, and tight ends.  A few WRs and o-linemen seem to be in the mix as well.  To this point, we haven't gone out of our way to look at DEs or RBs at all.

The TE thing suggests the Falcons might indeed be looking to upgrade the backups.  Keith Zinger came on pretty strong last summer in camp and played well on special teams this past season.  The coaching staff also values Justin Peelle for his combination of blocking skills for the run game and catching ability.  But Peelle is getting up there in age. 

I had expected the team to wait until 2011 to find a replacement, but the rumored workouts and pro day interest suggest it might happen this year.

A mild surprise is that we haven't heard a peep about RB prospects yet.  The Falcons do have Antone Smith on the practice squad, but there's still an opening on the roster -  Michael Turner, Ovie Mughelli, Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood were the only four runners on the roster in 2008, and last season showed the need for additional depth. 

Never mind the fan talk about ditching Norwood.  There's already a need for one more runner even with him on board, as the replacement for Verron Haynes.  (Aaron Stecker doesn't count since he was a mid-season fill-in anyway.)   We *know* the Falcons need one more regardless, so it's odd that we haven't heard about much interest in anyone in the backfield.

One possible reason may be that it isn't particularly tough to scout RBs.  With defensive players, you need to put them through the paces on their coverage skills, lateral movement, etc.  With the RBs, nearly everything you need to see is readily available in game film.  Interviews happened throughout the Combine and various all-star game practice weeks, so the team's files could easily be complete on most of the potential RB candidates.

Looking at centers was pretty much expected.  I'm certainly not on board with D-Led's man-crush on Pouncey at #19, but I do think a mid-round center is a likely happening.  As we all know, Todd McClure is one of only two Falcons remaining from the Dan Reeves era.  He showed a nice rejuvenation in 2008 but struggled to hold the point at times in 2009.  Backup Brett Romberg was a nice acquisition, and Quinn Ojinnaka has prepared for emergency duty at center. 

But Romberg isn't particularly young, and Ojinnaka isn't ready for real work in the middle yet.  The Falcons had Ben Wilkerson in 2007-2008, with line coach Paul Boudreau converting him primarily to guard.  When the team elected to keep only nine offensive linemen instead of ten, Wilkerson was the odd man out.

Just to make the run-down complete, we do still have two other centers from our own practice squad last year.  Rob Bruggeman and Blake Schlueter were just extra hands to snap the ball for the scout team in 2009, but Boudreau/Smitty wanted to bring *both* of them back for a shot at the roster this year. 

The main thing Bruggeman lacks is experience, having only received significant playing time in his senior season in college.  With Schlueter, the main question is size.  When he came aboard the practice squad (as Bruggeman's injury replacement), he listed at only 279 pounds. 

I'm not anticipating anything significant from them in 2010, and I don't think the Falcons are either.  But I will note that with offensive linemen, it's frequently true that the biggest difference between early round draft picks and the late round / undrafted prospects is development time rather than true potential.  Practice squad guys haven't made it yet, but it doesn't mean they're completely out of a team's plans.  (In particular, keep an eye on G/T Jose Valdez this summer.  If he takes a step forward in his development, he may ultimately replace Romberg or Ojinnaka for 2011.)

Posted on: September 9, 2009 10:49 pm

miscellaneous notes - 9/9/09

Preseason's out of the way, and the Falcons are nearly at full health.  Obviously Harry Douglas is a total loss, but he's the ONLY significant casualty for the summer.  There were others who were banged up or still recovering from 2008 injuries (David Irons, Von Hutchins, Tywain Myles, Jason Jefferson) but they all faced uphill battles to make this year's roster - and all were able to participate at the very least in OTAs. 

That's even better than last year, when the Falcons lost Von Hutchins (on the first day of training camp), linebacker prospects Robert James and Travis Williams, TE prospect Brad Listorti, Thomas Brown (in the final preseason game), had linemen Trey Lewis and Renardo Foster on PUP (with both moving straight to IR), and had Todd Weiner far from 100% rehabbing from his 2007 major knee surgery.  All of those players were strong candidates for at least the practice squad if not the regular roster, and all but Weiner were total losses.

And last year was considered a good summer for going without major injuries. 


The very first official injury report of the year came out today.  Only William Moore (still nursing his hamstring) did not practice at all.  John Abraham (knee) was limited but did participate. 

Jerious Norwood (head, foot) was fully back in action.  Abraham should be ready to go this weekend.  Moore is likely to be held out, but that's really not a loss -  since he missed the entire preseason after his minor surgery, he would almost certainly have been one of the eight inactive players anyway.

The best news of all from the injury report - Chris Houston wasn't even on the list.  He had hamstring issues that affected him in the final two preseason games (only five days apart).  He's back at full strength now, so hopefully his horror show is over.


Thoughts on the Wildcat, since the Dolphins are the main team using it:   if done properly, it's more than just a gimmick.  There really are sound fundamentals behind it.  The main one is that it gives the offense an extra lead blocker on running plays. 

If the quarterback is off the field entirely (which is the way I prefer to see it done) or way, way out wide at the flanker position (hopefully avoiding contact - think Randy Moss "taking a play off"), then there's no need for the person taking the snap to hand the ball to someone else.  Or if there is a handoff or pitchout, the guy who took the snap can become a lead blocker.

If you line up with a running back at the QB position, plus another running back (or TE lined up in that spot) and a fullback, the RB who takes the snap can follow both of the other two lead blockers.  That's a major advantage over a regular handoff, when the QB simply becomes dead weight after handing the ball to the tailback.  It's one more guy for the defense to overcome.

I know teams use the single-wing and other goofy packages, but the simple run straight up the middle is the main situation I want to watch out for in this game.  That's still a point of weakness for the Falcons defense.  

If the DTs are single-blocked by the guards (who are bigger than all our DTs except for Trey Lewis), the center will be free to block a linebacker.  The TE will take another linebacker - or perhaps even a DE, with the tackle moving downfield to the LB.  And then there will be not one but two lead blockers for the ball carrier.  Even one of the safeties will have a blocker between him and the ball carrier.

We saw the damage that can do in preseason (the Sproles TD against our first unit defense in the Chargers game) even without the Wildcat package.  Add another lead blocker, and it could be big trouble.


The initial practice squad consisted entirely of players who had been through training camp with the Falcons.  That's a rare item, but it didn't last.  Since the team kept only nine offensive linemen, center/guard Ben Wilkerson was the odd man out.  That leaves Brett Romberg as the only real center on the roster behind Todd McClure

This week the Falcons added center Rob Bruggeman to the practice squad as an insurance policy.  Bruggeman became a full time starter in his senior season at Iowa.  He was signed as an undrafted free agent and went through training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Guard/tackle Mike Butterworth (last year's undrafted free agent from Slippery Rock) was released from the squad to make room for Bruggeman.

NFL Draft Scout (whose rankings are featured here on CBS Sports dot com) rated Bruggeman as the 13th best center in this year's draft class and the 336th best overall prospect - just ahead of Falcons sixth round pick Spencer Adkins, who ranked 337th overall.  Bruggeman's practice squad linemate Jose Valdez ranked 342nd.

The Dolphins have also made their first practice squad move already.  They promoted tackle Nate Garner from the squad to the main roster to replace released tight end Davon Drew.


The Falcons are working Tye Hill and Brian Williams hard to get them up to speed on learning the defensive scheme, play calls, etc.  There are only so many things you can do with cover one, cover two, etc, but the assignments, reads, and communications do take time to learn - even for a veteran.

Williams has a huge headstart because he played under Smitty and DB coach Alvin Reynolds for several seasons with the Jaguars.  He may see action this weekend, but unless other DBs get hurt the team won't make any decisions until after Friday's practice.  I'm anticipating seeing one if not both of them on the active roster against the Dolphins, though I suspect neither one will start.

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