Posted on: October 3, 2009 10:04 pm
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: September 24, 2009 4:59 pm
Don't expect to see Jerious Norwood on the field this weekend. He hasn't practiced all week. Otherwise, everyone is fully participating. The remaining Falcons are essentially at full health.
For the Patriots, Wes Welker did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee problem and was limited today. Jerod Mayo is still out from his own knee situation. The Patriots haven't given out any information on how long Mayo is expected to be sidelined, but I don't think the Falcons will see him on the field. New England has a bunch of other guys limited this week, but I'm guessing they'll all play - including Welker.
One positive side to the injury to Peria Jerry = Trey Lewis will DEFINITELY be on the 45-man active roster and in the rotation. The significance is that Lewis is the team's nose tackle for their 3-4 package. That part of the defensive playbook was put on the shelf for the first two games since the team elected to keep Lewis on the inactive list. But with Lewis on the field, the team can throw some blitzes at Tom Brady that the Pats will not have seen before from game film.
The alignment we might see: Lewis, Jonathan Babineaux and Jamaal Anderson in three point stances as the down linemen, with John Abraham and one of the linebackers rushing from the second level.
First guess at the inactive list = John Parker Wilson (third QB), William Moore (hamstring), Vance Walker, Jerious Norwood (head), Will Svitek, Garrett Reynolds, Spencer Adkins, Tye Hill.
At some point, Tye Hill and William Moore will replace other players on the active list (possibly Christopher Owens and Lawrence Sidbury), but there's a strong chance the Falcons will wait until after the bye to start working them. Moore is practicing, and I'm told he's at about 85-90% health - which is where a lot of players are after two weeks of full contact anyway. But he's still way behind on his reps and would be limited to special teams duty if he got on the field. There's not much advantage to putting him in and taking out one of the other guys from those units, so Moore is likely to stay on the inactive list for this game.
It's a lot closer with Hill. He's essentially ready for man coverage assignments. The question is whether he has the playbook down well enough to trust him with the zone schemes, where one slip can quickly become a touchdown for the opposing team. (Imagine him releasing Randy Moss to a safety who isn't there. Not a pretty thought...)
But considering the Patriots have three dangerous WRs and a dangerous tight end, it's possible that the Falcons will elect to go with more man coverage combined with blitz packages. (There isn't much to lose since Brady, Welker and Watson can rip the soft zone to shreds anyway.) If so, activating Hill would be a very good move. Personally, I'd start him in place of Chris Houston.
Posted on: September 9, 2009 10:49 pm
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.
Posted on: September 2, 2009 2:31 am
Since we just acquired a CB from the team we played the week before, it seemed pretty obvious to double check and see how well the guy did against us.
Executive summary: he did well in pass coverage, but he couldn't tackle a running back to save his life.
If by chance you still have a copy of the video (you DO record and save every single Falcons game, right?) here are the plays to review:
13:00 remaining Q1, 2nd and 3 at Rams 27 - Michael Turner runs around the right side for a 9 yard gain and a first down. Hill lined up on the defensive left/offensive right side, covering Roddy White. He attempted to tackle Turner but missed. (A CB attempting to bring down MT seems almost unfair, so it's hard to blame him too much for that one.)
7:20 Q1, 1st and 10 at ATL 30 - Hill has coverage on Roddy. The ball was thrown past them out of bounds. It's possible that Matt Ryan saw the coverage and threw it over their heads intentionally. Regardless, Hill was on Roddy like a suit. That one had almost zero chance of being caught.
4:14 Q1, 2nd and 10 at Rams 25 - Hill lines up on Michael Jenkins. The Rams did a lot of zone coverage, and it appears that Hill was on the outside zone on this play. When Jenkins broke to the middle, Hill let him go. Chris Long was the defender in coverage on him when Jenkins caught the short pass. (Or at least it appeared that way - if that play was supposed to be man coverage, Hill should have stayed with him. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn't his play.)
3:33 Q1, 1st and 10 at Rams 14 - Hill was the DB with the one-on-one coverage on Tony Gonzalez. TG gets the touchdown. Big surprise, huh? Hill was right there with Gonzalez, but the throw was positioned so that TG could fend him off. He did just that. Six points for Atlanta.
Trent Green said he loved to throw to TG in those situations, because NOBODY could beat Tony in single man coverage. The linebackers weren't quick/agile enough to keep up with him, and the DBs weren't big enough to avoid being screened out by him as Hill was on this play.
That was the ONLY pass that Atlanta completed against Hill. Ryan and Shockley only threw it his way twice, choosing to take on Bartell or Wade (the nickel corner) instead.
14:42 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 9 - Hill misses a tackle on Norwood. I can understand bouncing off of Michael Turner. But if you get your hands on Norwood, you ought to be able to get him down. Or at least hang on until help arrives.
13:57 Q2 - 2nd and 15 at ATL 19 - D.J. Shockley throws a pass to Marty Booker. Booker botches the catch, tipping the ball into the air. The refs say that James Laurinaitis made the interception. (Note - he didn't. The ball hit the ground, and Road Warrior Junior secured it on the short hop. I have no idea why Smitty didn't throw the red flag.)
Hill was NOT the one in coverage on Booker. He had the outside zone. But he was running in towards the ball and had as good a shot at it as Laurinaitis, who collided with him while making the "catch".
8:19 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 16 - Hill AGAIN misses a tackle on Norwood. This time Jerious put a pretty lame move on Hill and ran right past him. Hill didn't even attempt to make the hit.
And that was the last play where Hill had any significant involvement. Quick take: he was considered good enough by the Rams to start. He was good enough that the Falcons QBs went elsewhere on all but two throws, and he didn't allow separation on either of those.
So he had a nice game in coverage. Or at least he was better against us than our CBs were against the Rams, and far better than our guys were against the Chargers. Perhaps he really is an upgrade - as long as we're not counting on him to play run defense. That part of his game was ugly with a capital Ugh.