Tag:Thomas Decoud
Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Looking ahead... free agency

One of the rare weeks where I'm in Atlanta for the weekend, and naturally it's our bye week...  Oh well.  That makes it a pretty good time to take a look at this coming offseason. 

The Falcons had it easy with free agency heading into the 2009 and 2010 seasons, as the team was loaded with young players locked under contract.  But the pendulum swung the other way this season and will be full tilt this coming offseason.

John Abraham will be a free agent.  So will Brent Grimes, since we only tendered him as a RFA this year.   Ditto for Eric Weems.  The team only resigned Jason Snelling for a one year deal.  He's a free agent again this year too.  Same story with linebacker Mike Peterson.

Tony Gonzalez is in the final year of his contract.  So are Todd McClure and Chris Redman, plus Joe Zelenka (long snappers are people too).  And so are the second and later rounders from the 2008 draft:  Curtis Lofton, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann, and Harry Douglas
And except for DE Ray Edwards, who inked a long term deal, all of our new Falcons are only signed for this season:  Kelvin Hayden, James Sanders, Brett Romberg, Reggie Kelly, Kirk Chambers, Mike Cox.

That's 19 unrestricted free agents on the current 53-man roster.  Yikes...



At quarterback, Matt Ryan is still here.  But John Parker Wilson is already a free agent -  all practice squad members are free agents who could be plucked at any time.  It's not a good sign for his future that the team chose to expose him rather than keep him on the roster.  And Redman will turn 35 before the start of training camp next year.  He may still have another year or two left in the tank, but I wouldn't depend on it.   So figure at least one new quarterback - and maybe two - in our future next year.

At running back, the Falcons are in reasonable shape for 2012 - mainly because serviceable running backs are so easy to come by, and because the backups are still so underused.  (Michael Turner has 138 carries going into the bye.  The other RB/FBs have a combined total of 24.)  Antone Smith has yet to carry the ball this year at all.  He's likely to be a fringe player once again next summer.

At tight end, Michael Palmer is an exclusive rights free agent.  That means the team can simply renew his contract, which makes him the only tight end they have locked in at all.  Gonzalez has said he feels like he can play a few more years.  He has also said before that he'd like to end his career with the Chiefs, so there's no telling whether he'd resign with Atlanta.  Practice squad players Marquez Branson (injured) and Tommy Gallarda are likely to be here for camp on futures contracts.  But we'll probably need more -  I wouldn't expect to see Kelly back for another season.

At wide receiver, I would guess that Douglas wouldn't be too difficult to resign.  Roddy White and Julio Jones are both here long term, and Kerry Meier is still under contract and likely to be more involved in his second year back from ACL surgery.  The interesting question is whether one of the prospects might challenge for a roster spot.  The front office reversed course last season.  Instead of going for big guys with good hands but who are slow as molasses, the team started looking at speedsters.  D.J. Davis and Kevin Cone are both lightning quick, and they're both getting a chance to learn the offense on the practice squad. 

(I'm thrilled to see the change - finally.  Too bad they couldn't have gone that route back in 2009, when we really could have used a speedster.  Our scouts had seen Johnny Knox at the Texas vs The Nation game - but after trading away Laurent Robinson, Dimitroff left Knox sitting on the draft board to take cornerback William Middleton instead.)

For all the fuss about how Atlanta's offensive line would supposedly be devastated by free agency this season, we turned out to be overloaded instead.  McClure is getting banged up pretty hard this year, and it's the final year of his contract.  Don't be surprised if Ol' Mud Duck hangs up the cleats.  But except for fill-ins Romberg and Chambers, everyone else is under contract at least through 2012.  (One caveat:  Sam Baker may be on one of those option or voidable years.)   And there's already extra depth in the pipeline, as both Andrew Jackson and Jose Valdez are still sitting on the practice squad.  

Specifically at center, Romberg would be likely to resign.  He came aboard this season as a street level free agent.  He's mainly working as a backup guard right now, but he's a natural center and was here previously as the #2 behind McClure.  He became expendable last year when the team drafted Joe Hawley.  Now he'd be a pretty obvious choice to bring back as Hawley's backup. 

At DE, we're in trouble.  Both Abraham and Biermann will be free agents.  Can we even afford to sign both?  We'd need at least one of them returning to supplement the remaining trio of Edwards, Lawrence Sidbury, and Cliff Matthews - and Sidbury will be a free agent after next season.   If we're going to stick with the current 4-3 scheme, the DE position will continue to need attention every year.

At DT, we're set.  Vance Walker will be a restricted free agent this offseason, and if he's still here, Carlton Powell would be a restricted free agent after 2012.  But the trio of Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry won't be free agents until 2014.

At linebacker, resigning Lofton will be a priority.  But otherwise, Peterson is the only free agent this year, and Spencer Adkins is the only one set to become a free agent next year. 

At cornerback, the question is whether we'd be able to hang on to Grimes at all.  He was hoping for a long term deal this year but only got a tender.  He's coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and continuing to make highlight reel plays.  If he hits the open market, somebody is bound to offer him the big bucks, as the Ravens did with Domonique Foxworth a few years back.   Hayden will also be a free agent this offseason, and Chris Owens will be entering the final year of his contract.   The team has already started preparing for 2012 by keeping undrafted rookie Darrin Walls on the roster, while Dominique Franks also continues to develop.

One potential scenario:  Grimes bolts for the big bucks, but the team resigns Hayden.  Even before the draft, that gives Atlanta a quintet of Dunta Robinson, Hayden, Owens, Franks and Walls.   Throw in few futures contract or two - perhaps bringing Kamaal McIlwain in for another run at training camp - and the group as a whole would at least be no worse off than in 2009 and 2010.

At safety, Decoud and Sanders are both free agents.  That leaves William Moore (who will be in the final year of his contract) and Shann Schillinger as the only safeties locked in.  The team opted to expose Rafael Bush to the practice squad instead of Walls, and he has already been plucked away.  Suaesi Tuimaunei is getting a chance to learn the system as the replacement for Bush on the practice squad.   He's an intriguing possibility as a long term project, but he won't be ready for real action in 2012.  At least one more safety will be a must. 




Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Looking ahead... free agency

One of the rare weeks where I'm in Atlanta for the weekend, and naturally it's our bye week...  Oh well.  That makes it a pretty good time to take a look at this coming offseason. 

The Falcons had it easy with free agency heading into the 2009 and 2010 seasons, as the team was loaded with young players locked under contract.  But the pendulum swung the other way this season and will be full tilt this coming offseason.

John Abraham will be a free agent.  So will Brent Grimes, since we only tendered him as a RFA this year.   Ditto for Eric Weems.  The team only resigned Jason Snelling for a one year deal.  He's a free agent again this year too.  Same story with linebacker Mike Peterson.

Tony Gonzalez is in the final year of his contract.  So are Todd McClure and Chris Redman, plus Joe Zelenka (long snappers are people too).  And so are the second and later rounders from the 2008 draft:  Curtis Lofton, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann, and Harry Douglas
And except for DE Ray Edwards, who inked a long term deal, all of our new Falcons are only signed for this season:  Kelvin Hayden, James Sanders, Brett Romberg, Reggie Kelly, Kirk Chambers, Mike Cox.

That's 19 unrestricted free agents on the current 53-man roster.  Yikes...



At quarterback, Matt Ryan is still here.  But John Parker Wilson is already a free agent -  all practice squad members are free agents who could be plucked at any time.  It's not a good sign for his future that the team chose to expose him rather than keep him on the roster.  And Redman will turn 35 before the start of training camp next year.  He may still have another year or two left in the tank, but I wouldn't depend on it.   So figure at least one new quarterback - and maybe two - in our future next year.

At running back, the Falcons are in reasonable shape for 2012 - mainly because serviceable running backs are so easy to come by, and because the backups are still so underused.  (Michael Turner has 138 carries going into the bye.  The other RB/FBs have a combined total of 24.)  Antone Smith has yet to carry the ball this year at all.  He's likely to be a fringe player once again next summer.

At tight end, Michael Palmer is an exclusive rights free agent.  That means the team can simply renew his contract, which makes him the only tight end they have locked in at all.  Gonzalez has said he feels like he can play a few more years.  He has also said before that he'd like to end his career with the Chiefs, so there's no telling whether he'd resign with Atlanta.  Practice squad players Marquez Branson (injured) and Tommy Gallarda are likely to be here for camp on futures contracts.  But we'll probably need more -  I wouldn't expect to see Kelly back for another season.

At wide receiver, I would guess that Douglas wouldn't be too difficult to resign.  Roddy White and Julio Jones are both here long term, and Kerry Meier is still under contract and likely to be more involved in his second year back from ACL surgery.  The interesting question is whether one of the prospects might challenge for a roster spot.  The front office reversed course last season.  Instead of going for big guys with good hands but who are slow as molasses, the team started looking at speedsters.  D.J. Davis and Kevin Cone are both lightning quick, and they're both getting a chance to learn the offense on the practice squad. 

(I'm thrilled to see the change - finally.  Too bad they couldn't have gone that route back in 2009, when we really could have used a speedster.  Our scouts had seen Johnny Knox at the Texas vs The Nation game - but after trading away Laurent Robinson, Dimitroff left Knox sitting on the draft board to take cornerback William Middleton instead.)

For all the fuss about how Atlanta's offensive line would supposedly be devastated by free agency this season, we turned out to be overloaded instead.  McClure is getting banged up pretty hard this year, and it's the final year of his contract.  Don't be surprised if Ol' Mud Duck hangs up the cleats.  But except for fill-ins Romberg and Chambers, everyone else is under contract at least through 2012.  (One caveat:  Sam Baker may be on one of those option or voidable years.)   And there's already extra depth in the pipeline, as both Andrew Jackson and Jose Valdez are still sitting on the practice squad.  

Specifically at center, Romberg would be likely to resign.  He came aboard this season as a street level free agent.  He's mainly working as a backup guard right now, but he's a natural center and was here previously as the #2 behind McClure.  He became expendable last year when the team drafted Joe Hawley.  Now he'd be a pretty obvious choice to bring back as Hawley's backup. 

At DE, we're in trouble.  Both Abraham and Biermann will be free agents.  Can we even afford to sign both?  We'd need at least one of them returning to supplement the remaining trio of Edwards, Lawrence Sidbury, and Cliff Matthews - and Sidbury will be a free agent after next season.   If we're going to stick with the current 4-3 scheme, the DE position will continue to need attention every year.

At DT, we're set.  Vance Walker will be a restricted free agent this offseason, and if he's still here, Carlton Powell would be a restricted free agent after 2012.  But the trio of Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry won't be free agents until 2014.

At linebacker, resigning Lofton will be a priority.  But otherwise, Peterson is the only free agent this year, and Spencer Adkins is the only one set to become a free agent next year. 

At cornerback, the question is whether we'd be able to hang on to Grimes at all.  He was hoping for a long term deal this year but only got a tender.  He's coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and continuing to make highlight reel plays.  If he hits the open market, somebody is bound to offer him the big bucks, as the Ravens did with Domonique Foxworth a few years back.   Hayden will also be a free agent this offseason, and Chris Owens will be entering the final year of his contract.   The team has already started preparing for 2012 by keeping undrafted rookie Darrin Walls on the roster, while Dominique Franks also continues to develop.

One potential scenario:  Grimes bolts for the big bucks, but the team resigns Hayden.  Even before the draft, that gives Atlanta a quintet of Dunta Robinson, Hayden, Owens, Franks and Walls.   Throw in few futures contract or two - perhaps bringing Kamaal McIlwain in for another run at training camp - and the group as a whole would at least be no worse off than in 2009 and 2010.

At safety, Decoud and Sanders are both free agents.  That leaves William Moore (who will be in the final year of his contract) and Shann Schillinger as the only safeties locked in.  The team opted to expose Rafael Bush to the practice squad instead of Walls, and he has already been plucked away.  Suaesi Tuimaunei is getting a chance to learn the system as the replacement for Bush on the practice squad.   He's an intriguing possibility as a long term project, but he won't be ready for real action in 2012.  At least one more safety will be a must. 




Posted on: 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: March 23, 2010 1:54 pm
 

thoughts on the compensatory picks...

It's nice to see that the Falcons are now one of the teams that "gets it" when it comes to compensatory picks.

An example of a team that missed the boat and cost themselves a good pick:  the Cardinals lost Antonio Smith in free agency in 2009 and would have received a third round pick this year.  But they also signed backup running back Jason Wright - and gave him a contract large enough to count.

(side note:  Wright was one of our undrafted rookie signings in 2004 and ended up appearing in two games for the Falcons that year.)

Wright carried the ball THREE times for the Cardinals in 2009.  He wasn't injured or anything - he was on the active roster for every game.  They simply didn't use him.   But because the timing and salary made him count as part of the magic formula, Arizona had as many significant free agents coming as they did going.  So to get those three carries last year, the Cardinals lost out on a third round pick this year.

The alternative:  when you're in line to receive a good compensatory pick, wait until after the official free agency period ends (shortly before training camp begins) to sign those fringe guys.  Or sign players who were released by their previous teams, since they don't count.

(Before anybody jumps on this thinking I'm saying teams should build their entire offseason strategies around comp picks, I'm not saying that at all.  Last year's big free agents like Albert Haynesworth or T.J. WhosYourMama certainly were worth it.  I'm referring to the borderline guys -  players like Antoine Harris or Tony Gilbert from last year's Falcons roster.  You wouldn't be willing to give up a third rounder to sign a guy like Charlie Peprah, would you?  That's pretty much what Arizona did.) 

The Cardinals could just as easily have found a suitable fifth or sixth player for their backfield off the street, as an undrafted rookie, off of waivers after preseason roster cuts, or plucked from another team's practice squad.  Atlanta signed Verron Haynes and later Aaron Stecker that way and added Antone Smith to the practice squad without costing ourselves a compensatory pick.    

Other Falcon additions that didn't count:   Will Svitek, Marty Booker, and Robert Ferguson (who lost out to Eric Weems and Brian Finneran for the last WR spots).  Booker and Ferguson were signed after Harry Douglas was injured, but the team had already scheduled visits and workouts for free agent WRs (including Ferguson) even before HD's injury.   Also: OL Jeremy Newberry (who promptly retired) and LB Jamie Winborn (who lost out to Gilbert and Spencer Adkins for the final LB spots). 

Our own Lawyer Milloy was signed by the Seahawks after the end of the official free agency period, which is why he didn't count towards the Falcons possibly receiving another pick.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Falcons will NOT be in line for a compensatory pick next year.  We didn't lose any free agents this year that mattered.  Chris Redman, Brian Williams, and Brian Finneran all re-signed.  This is the perfect year to sign anyone we want to fill in the gaps.

So have no fear over the signing of Matt Giordano or any other player we might sign over the next month or two.  We're not throwing away future comp picks by signing them.   Bring 'em on! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One other question that has yet to be answered...   will there even be comp picks in next year's draft?  Compensatory picks came in with the early free agency.  This year's comp picks are tied to last year's signings, so they're still in the system even though 2010 is an uncapped year.  But comp picks for next year might depend on the terms of the next CBA.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You may have seen a note on the Falcons web site or perhaps a mention in some other article elsewhere that the team had previously received a grand total of eight compensatory picks and that this year's draft will bring the total to ten.

One note to add is that in the early days of the system, the compensatory picks could be traded.  Atlanta's first compensatory pick was acquired by trade.  It was a third rounder that actually had been awarded to the Broncos.  We received it as part of the package for trading Mike Pritchard to the Broncos.

Our personnel head at the time, Ken Herock, used that third rounder to draft Alai Kalanuvalu.  It's yet another in the long list of classic Falcons draft picks.  Kalanuvalu didn't even make the roster.
 
Otherwise, the Falcons never had higher than a seventh round compensatory pick through the remainder of the Ken Herock years or through the Dan Reeves years in spite of losing a few big names to free agency. 

Half of our comp picks have come in the last five years.  Under McKay and now Dimitroff, the Falcons have received 4th and 7th rounders in 2007 (for the loss of Kevin Shaffer and Barry Stokes in 2006), a 3rd rounder in 2008 (for losing Patrick Kerney in 2007), and now 3rd and 5th rounders (for losing Domonique Foxworth and Michael Boley in 2009).

The pick for Kevin Shaffer ended up wasted on Martrez Milner, but the seventh rounder that year became Jason Snelling.  And the pick for Patrick Kerney was used to take Thomas Decoud. 

And Shaffer himself was the product of one of our earlier comp picks - a seventh rounder in 2002.  The other two Dan Reeves comp picks were used to take WRs Rondel Menendez and Quentin McCord.  Reeves certainly did a better job drafting offensive linemen than wide receivers....



Posted on: March 7, 2010 6:44 pm
 

The sweet thing about re-signing Brian Williams

Think back to the first few weeks of the 2009 season - the games against the Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots, 49ers and Bears.

The Falcons had Erik Coleman and first time starter Thomas DeCoud at safety.  Antoine Harris and William Moore were the backups on the roster.  So what would the team have done if one of the starters got hurt or if Decoud faltered?

Moore was still banged up himself, considered on a day to day basis for practice and on the inactive list for games.  He did eventually get in a couple of games strictly on special teams before tweaking the hamstring again.  But even if he had been back to health, he had missed the entire preseason.  There's no way the coaching staff would have wanted to put him on the field as our last line of defense.

Harris wouldn't have been a much better option.  Yes, the coaching staff jokingly refers to him as a Swiss Army knife for his versatility.  He was a solid contributor on special teams.  But he would have been a major liability if the team had been forced to start him in the secondary.

The answer was that before his injury in the fourth quarter of week six, Brian Williams was our game day backup at safety.  Yes, he was our starting cornerback, and he slid inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel package.  But if a starting safety had been hurt, he would have been the replacement.  Brent Grimes would have taken over at cornerback, with Chevis Jackson stepping in as the nickel.

Williams is expected to be cleared to play medically.  The question is whether he'll be able to pivot and make the sudden changes of direction needed to play the cornerback spot.  The first year back from an ACL injury is usually not so hot.  So while he adds depth at corner, his knee is still a red flag if he's forced to start.  Dunta Robinson is the team's answer at cornerback, not Williams.

Still, the Falcons still have the issue of the #4 safety to address.  He might be the perfect answer for that spot.  Moore is a year behind in his development.  With Williams on board, it won't be a problem if Moore needs a year to learn the defense in practice the same way Decoud did in 2008.  If a starter gets hurt, Williams can be the one to step in.  Like last year, he may be listed at cornerback, but he could easily be our de facto backup safety.

A side benefit:  it would also allow the team to keep an extra cornerback, meaning that Tye Hill or Chris Houston might have a chance to stick on the roster.  We've seen how they are both fish out of water in our zone system, but if new DB coach Tim Lewis can work hard with them in camp, they just might surprise us.  Once upon a time they both had the talent to become top draft picks.  The potential is there. If nothing else, one or both might at least become trade bait for a future draft pick.

So never mind the cornerback spot.  The sweet thing about re-signing Williams is that it upgrades the backup safety position.  If the Falcons are to make a run for a trophy this year, they need to have all depth and skill issues across the board nailed down.  This could easily be the answer at safety.

Posted on: January 11, 2010 2:36 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 3:15 pm
 

Tracking the draft picks, part two

Recap from the initial piece:  draft picks are important assets in themselves in addition to their potential to become players.

You get seven picks per year to help you increase the value of your roster. If you release a drafted player, the "life" of that draft pick ends.  But if you can trade him or get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere, you've increased your team's resources and extended the legacy of that draft pick.

The example from the initial piece was that Dan Reeves scooped up DT Ellis Johnson after the Colts released him.  Two years later, McKay traded him for the draft pick he used to select Michael Boley.  In April, Dimitroff will have a compensatory pick from Boley signing with the Giants.  So eight years and two GMs after the Falcons got something for nothing by signing Johnson, they still have a draft pick to show for him.



The Falcons have a few more cases of players who "became" other players.


Many fans still cringe at losing 1999's first rounder Patrick Kerney to free agency after the 2006 season.  The Falcons were mired in salary cap woes for a few years and simply couldn't compete with the megabucks offers that rising young players like Kerney and Kevin Shaffer received from other teams.

And while Petrino made the horrid call of drafting Jamaal Anderson to be the cornerstone of his franchise, at least Kerney didn't completely go to waste.  The Falcons received a third round compensatory pick in 2008 for the loss of Kerney in 2007.  And by then, the hog sooey idiot was off in Arkansas, so he had no influence on how that pick would be used.

That compensatory pick became starting safety Thomas DeCoud.  So while we've been hurting at DE since Kerney's departure, his legacy lives on in the secondary.



Coach Booby also decided he wanted his ex-Louisville player Antoine Harris for his #9 defensive back.  He also made Adam Jennings the return man, which meant former Pro Bowl kick returner Allen Rossum was on the way out.  Rather than having to release him outright, McKay managed to trade Rossum to the Steelers for a future seventh round draft pick.  It wasn't much, but it still beats relasing the player and getting absolutely nothing.

Dimitroff used that draft pick (#232) to get TE Keith Zinger.  Zinger spent the 2008 season on the practice squad and was only the #5 tight end heading into camp.  But he showed tremendous improvement in both blocking and receiving, ultimately beating out Jason Rader and incumbent starter Ben Hartsock for a roster spot.

As the #3 TE, Zinger didn't get many receiving opportunities, mainly appearing on offense as an extra blocker. But he did that role well, and he was also a significant figure on special teams, playing on every special teams unit.

He'll get a little more time working with Matt Ryan and the #2 quarterback this summer.  He might still be a year away from being a significant factor on offense, but he has already shown good potential.  If you're already looking for another TE to replace Tony Gonzalez in a year or two, don't count Zinger out quite yet.



Linebacker Mark Simoneau was the team's third round pick back in 2000.  In March of 2003, Dan Reeves traded Simoneau to the Eagles for a pair of draft picks - a sixth rounder in 2003 and a fourth rounder in 2004. 

Reeves used the sixth rounder to draft Waine Bacon, just one of his many WR busts over the years.  (Reeves may have been a decent coach, but as a personnel head he had ZERO talent for evaluating WR prospects.  But that's a whole separate article in itself.)

McKay used the 2004 fourth rounder (#125 overall) as the throw-in to trigger his first draft trade as Falcons GM.  That pick went to the Colts to move Atlanta's second rounder up to the back end of round one. 
With that pick, the Falcons selected starting WR Michael Jenkins.



And of course there are two more well known players from the 2004 draft who were later traded for draft picks.  I'll hit those next time...



Posted on: October 3, 2009 10:04 pm
 

Ten observations from the first three games

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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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