Tag:Vance Walker
Posted on: August 19, 2010 6:41 am
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Defensive personnel - Chiefs preseason game


For entire first half:

Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon at LB
Brent Grimes, Chris Owens at CB
Chevis Jackson as nickel CB
Erik Coleman, Thomas DeCoud at S

The Falcons played basic 4-3 (or 4-2-5 in nickel package) for the entire game.

Note... this time around, I kept the player numbers consistent to track the substitutions rather than keeping track of left side vs right side.  So the linemen aren't necessarily listed in order from left to right.

First defensive series

98 95 97 55
71 95 91 55
71 95 91 55

Second defensive series

98 95 97 55
98 95 97 55
71 95 91 55

(Babs and Abraham are done for the night)

Third defensive series

71 99 97 92 for eight plays
90 99 98 71 (3rd down, 6 man blitz, sack)

Fourth defensive series

71 91 98 90 for all six plays

Fifth defensive series

96 97 99 92
96 91 93 92
96 91 93 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 98 90
96 91 98 90
71 91 98 90 for six plays

(halftime)


Dominique Franks, Chevis Jackson at CB
Shann Schillinger, Rafael Bush at S
Spencer Adkins, Bear Woods, Robert James at LB
Chris Owens as the nickel CB
Stephen Nicholas played some LB in nickel package


Sixth defensive series

71 91 99 92
71 91 99 90
71 91 99 90
71 91 99 90

(note: Daylan Walker replaced Jackson for one play at CB)


Seventh defensive series

96 91 97 90 all four plays

Eighth defensive series

64 97 99 92
64 97 99 92
90 97 99 92

Ninth defensive series

90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 97 96
90 99 97 96

Tenth defensive series

Weston Johnson in at LB with Woods, Adkins

90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 99 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64 Rajon Henley dinged
90 97 93 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96





Jamaal Anderson played 18 snaps; 3 at DE and 15 at DT, all in the first half

Kroy Biermann played 28 snaps; 24 in first half
Lawrence Sidbury played 42 (!) snaps; 15 in first half
Chauncey Davis played 19 snaps; 15 in first half
Emmanuel Stephens played 26 snaps; 9 in first half
Rajon Henley played 8 snaps; 0 in first half

Corey Peters played 31 snaps; 23 in first half
Trey Lewis played 33 snaps; 12 in first half
Vance Walker played 33 snaps; 14 in first half
Thomas Johnson played 14 snaps; 2 in first half

note:  TJ wasn't 100% coming into the game; coaching staff intended to use him sparingly and in short rotations


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: January 23, 2010 9:05 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2010 9:13 pm
 

Tracking the draft picks, part three

Recap:  a draft pick is an asset in itself.  Each team gets seven of them per year (leaving out the compensatory picks, at least for now).

If you draft players that don't stick with the team, you have more holes to fill.  You end up using picks year after year just to replace the same spots on the roster instead of improving the team.

But if you end up trading the players or receiving compensatory draft picks when they leave via free agency, you have extended the "life" of those picks.  They might not be in the form of the same players, but you still have assets to show for them.  That can be as good (and sometimes better) than re-signing the same players you initially drafted.




A prime Falcons example is the 2004 draft.  I claim that three of the top five drafts in franchise history came in the last decade - and oddly enough, each of our three GMs of the decade had one.

Dan Reeves (counting him as a GM since he had full control over personnel as well as head coaching duties) had the 2001 draft.  Thomas Dimitroff had the 2008 class, which may be remembered as the best draft in Falcons history.

And in between, Rich McKay had the forgotten gem of 2004.

Surprised to hear that draft called a "gem"?  Well, first look at the players selected:  DeAngelo Hall, Michael Jenkins, Matt Schaub, and Demorrio Williams.  That's a two-time Pro Bowl defensive back, a starting wide receiver, a franchise quarterback, and a starting linebacker.  Four starters out of seven picks is an *outstanding* draft class.  

Go back through the annals of Falcons history and count how many of our draft classes produced even three guys who were still starting in the NFL after six seasons.  It's an extreme rarity, at least for Atlanta.  For that matter, it doesn't happen all that often for any team.  Kudos to the scouting department for that one - it really was one of the best drafts the Falcons had ever had.

But the press is quick to dismiss that draft, sometimes even calling it a failure since Jenkins was the only player from that group still with the team heading into the 2008 season.

Not so fast, kemo sabe...   The Falcons have a whole lot more to show for that draft class than just our #2 receiver.

DeAngelo had his famous argument with Petrino in the Panthers game in 2007 and demanded a trade rather than play for yet another rookie coach in 2008.  Ultimately, new GM Dimitroff granted him his wish and dealt him to the Raiders for a pair of draft picks.  (Be careful what you wish for, DeAngelo - you might just get it...) 

The picks received were a second rounder in 2008 and a fifth rounder in 2009.  Thank you ever so kindly, Mr. Davis.  It was a pleasure doing business with you. 

And many fans believe the Falcons made a big mistake trading Matt Schaub.  It's hard to blame them, especially considering how things went in the summer of 2007.  But the part of that story that gets left out is that Schaub was already a restricted free agent, and Arthur Blank's nine figure contract extension to Michael Vick made it clear that Schaub's intended role was purely as a backup.  In other words, Schaub was already as good as gone the moment the 2006 season ended. 

The Falcons offered him a high tender in order to talk trade and control the picks they received.  While they didn't get the highest possible RFA bounty (a first and a third rounder), the Falcons did get two first day draft picks from the Texans - a second rounder in 2007 and another second rounder in 2008.

That 2007 second rounder from Schaub became starting left guard Justin Blalock.

The 2008 second rounders for Hall and Schaub were the second rounders that Atlanta sent in a draft day deal to the Redskins

ESPN reported that the Falcons gave Washington three picks to move up to #21 to take Sam Baker.  Atlanta fans were horrified by the one-sided nature of the trade, leading Dimitroff to go out of his way that night to clear the air and make sure the local media understood that those initial reports were incorrect.  It was NOT a three for one deal.  It was three picks for three picks, allowing the Redskins to move up with two picks while Atlanta moved up with one.

The actual trade bumped the #34 (from the Raiders for Hall) up to #21, landing Baker.  The #48 (from the Texans for Schaub) dropped to #84, with Atlanta taking Harry Douglas.  The other part was that the fourth round pick moved down to the fifth.  I doubt many fans would object - that pick became Kroy Biermann.

And the following year, the Cowboys traded up in the fifth round. (Jerry Jones making trades on draft day?  Big shock, I know.)  Dallas gave us an extra seventh rounder to move down 13 spots.  They acquired our DeAngelo Hall pick and used it to draft DeAngelo Smith.  Atlanta used the picks from Dallas to take Garrett Reynolds in the fifth and Vance Walker in the seventh.

The bottom line... sure, DeAngelo Hall and Matt Schaub are now elsewhere. 

But their draft picks ultimately became left tackle Sam Baker, left guard Justin Blalock, slot receiver/return man Harry Douglas, offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds and defensive tackle Vance Walker.  Add in starting wide receiver Michael Jenkins, and the Falcons head into 2010 with six players on the roster that resulted from the picks of the 2004 draft.  




Posted on: September 4, 2009 2:37 am
 

First notes from the Ravens game

I was glad to have the chance to see this one in the Dome.  I travel a lot and miss most of the home games.  The new vid screens are sweet.

I recorded the broadcast but haven't watched it yet.  From my vantage point, I didn't get to see detail of the backup offensive linemen (Adam Speer, Ryan Stanchek, Jose Valdez, Ben Wilkerson, Mike Butterworth) who are in the hunt for the last roster spots and/or practice squad jobs.  I know the mop-up unit as a whole didn't look as good as the regular second unit, but that's obviously no surprise. 
I'll have to watch the broadcast tomorrow to see how well each one of them did individually.  

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

Quick takes from the Dome:  the offensive play calls were way too basic and conservative.  The defense did pull some blitzes, but those seemed pretty tame as well.  The two that I remember most were both delayed blitzes that were too slow in developing to have any chance of success.  Again it felt like the coaching staff kept things simple to evaluate how well the kids did the basics. 

I may change my mind on that one after watching the TV broadcast, but that's how it felt - this was all about evaluations, and the coaches didn't put much effort into actually trying to win this one.  Some fans booed when the team ran on third and long to end the opening drive.  I understand their frustration - everyone in the Dome knew that was the end of the night for the starters, and it felt like the coaches were packing it in just to get them off the field.   

Christopher Owens had a bad game.  A *really* bad game.  I know lots of fans want the Falcons to start him instead of Brent Grimes, but he proved he isn't ready.  He's a fine prospect, but you really don't want rookies or even second year players to start in the secondary if you can avoid it.  (Yes, the Falcons are doing it.  But that's exactly why we've all complained about the secondary for the last two years...)

Chris Houston had another off game.  I'll bet we'll soon start hearing speculation that Tye Hill will replace him instead of Grimes.  Don't blame Houston for that first TD pass though.  Mike Peterson had the coverage on that one and got torched.

I've posted a few times that Keith Zinger struck me in practice as the most improved Falcons player since last season and that I wouldn't be surprised if he landed the #3 job.  I say he nailed it tonight.  Tony Gonzalez starts, Justin Peelle is the #2, and Zinger is the #3.  Considering Zinger was the fifth string TE even for the Rams game, that's a nice accomplishment.  

Robert Ferguson may have lost his roster spot.  Eric Weems stepped up and had another solid game.  Ferguson didn't. 

If the Falcons only keep five WRs, Weems made a pretty strong case that he should be the #5.  Also, Weems and Chandler Williams have been the main candidates (virtually the only candidates) for the punt return job.  So the Falcons will either have to (a) keep six WRs, (b) keep Weems or Williams instead of Ferguson, or (c) find another punt returner that hasn't had many reps in preseason.  After this game, Ferguson can only hope for (a) - and then hope he's the #6 instead of Troy Bergeron or Williams.

Vance Walker has played well enough to win a practice squad spot, but it's tough to say he's going to make the roster.  Thomas Johnson has had the inside track as the fourth DT and has been pretty solid, but Walker also had good game and is getting better every day.  He clearly beat out Tywain Myles and Jason Jefferson, and he's making it extremely tough to cut him.  

The twist is that whoever wins the fourth DT job will be on the inactive list every week unless someone else gets too banged up to play.  If the coaches figure that Walker will have a few more weeks of practice before he sees action, they might choose to keep him rather than risk losing him to another team by putting him on waivers and sending him to the practice squad.

Kroy Biermann bulked up in the offseason and it showed.  He may have been playing against the second unit, but he had a monster game.  (If a second string DE plays lights out against the second unit OL, that still counts as a good performance.)  I say the Falcons will use one of the extra roster spots to keep all five defensive ends. 

Maurice Lucas had a sack tonight, but I don't know if he's earned a practice squad job.  I'm guessing the sack won't make a significant difference - if he hadn't won it already, he still hasn't won't it after this game.

I saw Jamie Winborn make two solid plays and botch one pretty badly.  Offhand, I really don't remember too much from Spencer Adkins or Robert James.  They each had a few tackles but nothing that stood out (either good or bad) in my mind. 

Coy Wire and Tony Gilbert are set as the #4 and #5 LBs.  Winborn probably has the edge for the #6 spot.  Adkins and James are both eligible for the practice squad if they don't make it as a seventh linebacker or beat out Winborn for the sixth spot. 

I'll have to watch the broadcast in detail, but NONE of the backup safeties really jumped out at me during the game live. 

Finally, on the QBs -  John Parker Wilson started out rough and looked a little gun-shy.  But he got it together and had a couple of really solid drives.  He showed he has some solid potential - it was pretty obvious why Mike Mularkey says he really likes the kid. 

I still feel JPW and DJ are both good candidates for the #3 job but that neither of them is ready for real game action.  Bulldog and Crimson Tide fans will feel differently about it, but frankly it doesn't matter which one wins the #3 spot.  If either one of them sees the field this year, it's a disaster.

So it's Redman as the #2 unless the team picks up someone from outside the organization.  And as I mentioned in a thread on the Falcons message board, Smitty was asked point blank after practice yesterday if Redman would be the backup QB again this year.  Smitty dodged the question. 

I thought that was rather interesting.  Considering Redman was highly respected as the backup last season and that Smitty said he had a great game against the Chargers, it's hard to understand Smitty not being willing to say Redman is his #2.  I say the team might be considering an upgrade after the Saturday roster cuts.  This year's #2 QB might be someone not currently in the Falcons organization...

 
 
 
 
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