Tag:Will Svitek
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.

(halftime)

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: August 13, 2010 4:08 pm
 

mock roster, pre-exhibition edition

The Falcons released their first depth chart this week, heading into the first preseason game tonight against the Chiefs.  The first one never means much, as much of it is typically based largely on the prior season.

As an example, Garrett Reynolds is listed as a backup at right tackle while Jose Valdez is listed as a backup at right guard.  That's how they practiced last season (with Valdez on the practice squad).  But in camp, Reynolds has slid inside to guard while Valdez has played outside. 



But I digress...  here's the pre-exhibition version of the mock 53-man opening day roster and practice squad:



Quarterback:  Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson

Running back:  Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling

Fullback:  Ovie Mughelli, Dan Klecko

Tight End:  Tony Gonzalez, Justin Peelle, Keith Zinger

Wide Receiver:  Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier, Brian Finneran

Offensive line, starters:  Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Harvey Dahl, Tyson Clabo

Offensive line, backups:  Will Svitek, Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley (Quinn Ojinnaka = suspended)

Defensive end:  John Abraham, Jamaal Anderson, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Chauncey Davis

Defensive tackle:  Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Trey Lewis, Thomas Johnson (Jonathan Babineaux = suspended)

Linebacker:  Mike Peterson, Curtis Lofton, Stephen Nicholas, Sean Weatherspoon, Coy Wire, Spencer Adkins (Robert James = suspended)

Cornerback:  Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, Chris Owens, Chevis Jackson, Dominique Franks

Safety:  Erik Coleman, Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Brian Williams, Shann Schillinger

Specialists:  Matt Bryant, Michael Koenen, Joe Zelenka


Practice squad:  RB Dimitri Nance, WR Brandyn Harvey, TE Michael Palmer, OL Jose Valdez, DE Emmanuel Stephens, DT Vance Walker, LB Bear Woods, S Rafael Bush



Notes on the three suspended players: 

After the game against the Steelers, the coaching staff will evaluate the film and make the decision:  either Trey Lewis or Thomas Johnson will have to go.

For this list, Quinn Ojinnaka isn't making the roster anyway.  But the team will wait the extra week while he is suspended (he won't count towards the roster) before making the move.  Odds are that another team will pick him up off of waivers, so they'd rather wait in case someone gets hurt rather than lose him prematurely.

Robert James is out four weeks.  At the moment, he wouldn't make the roster anyway - but that could easily change if he plays well in the four exhibition games.  He's locked in a battle for the #6 LB spot with Spencer Adkins.

Adkins has blazing speed, but can he really play linebacker?  He's improving in practice, but so is James. It will be a close call between them, and the team will wait the full four weeks to see how Adkins progresses before making the final decision.



Unusual inclusions: 

Brian Finneran is listed as making the initial roster because Michael Jenkins is likely to be unavailable for the opener.  But otherwise, Finn is in that Old Yeller stage.  We love him, but he's old, slow, and injury prone.  Sooner or later it will be time for Smitty to put him down.  It's only a question of when. 

At that point, add one of the prospects to the roster, with at least one more on the practice squad.



The media speculation is that Brian Williams is a strong contender for the starting CB spot.  I have my doubts about that.  The guy hasn't even been cleared for contact in practice yet.  It's a tall order to expect him to beat out Grimes, Owens, Jackson and Franks in just four weeks.  He may not be ready to play at all - Von Hutchins was farther along at this point last season but ended up being released with an injury settlement.

For now, I'll go along with Smitty's reassurances that he'll be ready to go in September.  But I'm putting him in as a safety rather than the overcrowded CB position. 



Chauncey Davis is still on the list, but he's on the hot seat.  In terms of playing time, Biermann passed him last season and Sidbury is likely to do it this season.  Davis has a very high salary for a #5 DE, which makes him expendable.

Emmanuel Stephens has come on strong in camp and will try his best to take that spot away from Davis.  If Davis continues to underachieve and Stephens cranks it up, it just might happen. 

But for now, Davis gets the benefit of the doubt. For his efforts, Stephens makes the practice squad list.




Noteworthy cuts:

Eric Weems faces competition at WR and also at PR/KR.  But Jerious Norwood, Dominique Franks, and others can also handle the return jobs, so Weems will have to win his roster spot purely on his skills at WR.  He may be the odd man out before opening day.


Brett Romberg is one of Boudreau's guys.  But his primary position is center.  McClure is still the starter, and the Falcons just drafted Hawley as the center of the future.  Romberg can also play guard, but so can Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds, Hawley, and practice squad prospect Jose Valdez.  In four weeks the music stops, and Romberg doesn't have a chair.


Quinn Ojinnaka is a holdover from the Jim Mora days.  He's still around because of his versatility, but it should be noted that he wasn't brought here specifically because he fit Smitty/Mularkey/Boudreau's prototype for a lineman. 

The team needs a reliable backup at left tackle.  Last season, Svitek was Boudreau's choice as the #2 ahead of Ojinnaka.  So at least for now, pencil in Svitek as the guy.  Ojinnaka will have to step up and win the job.  Otherwise, as of the Tuesday following the Steelers game, you'll not see nothing of The Mighty Quinn.



Jose Valdez is still practice squad eligible.  He's coming on strong, but the team has no vested interests at risk here (meaning no draft pick involved - if they lose him, all they've lost is an undrafted practice squad prospect).  So they'll likely try to stash him back on the squad for another season, calling him up if someone gets hurt.

Vance Walker is also practice squad eligible.  He's not likely to last the season without being plucked by another team.  For that matter, he might not even clear waivers for the Falcons to put him on the squad in the first place.  But they'll try.

Robert James is still eligible for the squad as well, but he's suspended for the first four weeks.  If he and Adkins both do well in preseason, look for Adkins to win the roster spot with James being added to the practice squad in week five.

Matt Giordano was a strong contender to replace Antoine Harris, Charlie Peprah and Jamaal Fudge as a special teams oriented backup safety.  But drafting Shann Schillinger turns up the heat on Giordano.  And if Brian Williams does get added to the mix at safety, it's no contest.  Who would you rather keep as your # 4 -  a veteran who has never made it playing in the secondary and has only been a special teamer for his entire career, or a veteran who can start at either cornerback or safety if needed?  Giordano loses out to both Schillinger and Williams.




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: December 10, 2009 6:31 pm
 

injury update - 12/10/09

If anyone missed the news, Chris Houston is OUT for this weekend against the Saints with a bad hamstring.  Justin Peelle has a concu...  er, "head injury".  He hasn't officially been scratched yet, but that's likely to change with tomorrow's injury report.  I've already scratched him from my projected lineup. 

Jonathan Babineaux, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Sam Baker and Will Svitek are all limited but practicing.  If they hold up, they'll all be available.  The question is how effective they'll all be.  We've seen Baker get torched while trying to play hurt earlier this season, and Roddy wasn't particularly effective either the first couple of games after he got banged up.  So while Jenkins might be in the lineup, it's questionable how effective he'll be.

Todd McClure returned to limited practice today.  He's going to try to play this weekend if the medical staff will clear him.  They probably will. 

Harvey Dahl isn't doing quite so well.  He has been resting his ankle and working with the trainers rather than practicing.  He'll start with the training staff tomorrow before practice.  If all goes well, he'll be listed as "questionable" on tomorrow's injury report and will be a game time decision. 

Best guess...  Baker and McClure play.  Brett Romberg will be active but will NOT start for Dahl since McClure is also dicey.  Quinn Ojinnaka likely starts at right guard.  The backup tackle will be a game time decision between Svitek and Garrett Reynolds.

The best news of the week:  Chris Owens is fully back in action.  Unless something happens to him in practice tomorrow, he'll probably start this weekend.  No word yet on who will start across from him, but it's not all that significant since the coaches are expected to once again rotate the remaining corners. 
And of course the story all the media is covering:  Michael Turner and Matt Ryan are both still being held out completely.  The team hasn't announced that either of them will be scratched, and the official word from the coaching staff is that the team hopes they'll both be able to play.  Unfortunately, the unofficial word is that the chances are less than 50/50 that either of them will see the field this weekend.  It's possible, but they'll both have to make some significant progress in the next two days. 

So we'll probably be up against the undefeated Saints without our starting quarterback or running back to go along with our patchwork defense.  It's a good thing I'm not in Vegas like last weekend.  I'd be tempted to put a chunk of money down AGAINST us this week - regardless of the spread.


Posted on: November 10, 2009 3:08 pm
 

miscellaneous notes - 11/10/2009

It's Tuesday, which is the team's day off now that we're back to a "normal" weekly routine.  A few notes before we head into the second half of the season...




The inside word on Thomas Brown:  the Falcons still love the kid.

It seemed really strange that the team brought in two running backs (Antoine Smith for the practice squad in addition to Aaron Stecker for the roster) and that Brown wasn't one of them...  not to mention the fact that Brown wasn't part of the original practice squad.

The reason is that the news reports from the roster cut deadline didn't give us all the details.  Thomas Brown and Von Hutchins weren't ordinary releases/waivers.  They were injury settlements, just like with David Irons at the start of training camp.  Under league rules, teams can't re-sign players released under injury settelements until mid-November.  So they didn't sign Brown to the practice squad because they couldn't.  And while they were able to re-sign Jamaal Fudge and bring promising prospect Eric Brock back to the practice squad, Von Hutchins has been off limits.

I fully expect to see Brown in a Falcons uniform again.  Not certain about Hutchins, but it's quite possible we'll see him come back as well.




On other banged-up Falcons:   unless he gets hurt in practice, Jason Snelling will return this weekend against the PanthersThomas Johnson is expected to return to practice this week.  The team hopes he'll also be able to play, but it's not certain. 

Sam Baker aggravated the same ankle he's been having problems with for the last several weeks.  The story with him this week will probably be the same as last week - he might be cleared to play, but whether the team would (or even should) choose to play him is another question entirely.  Will Svitek certainly showed last week that he's a competent replacement.  He plays with fire like the Nasty Boys on the right side of the line.  Falcons radio announcer Wes Durham joked that he learned from the best, doing an internship this year at the firm of Clabo & Dahl, and that he plays right through the last millisecond of the whistle.  

The big concern this week is Brian Finneran.  There haven't been any official announcements or comments on him at all yet.





Much ado about a doo-doo:   no word yet on formal complaints being filed about DeAngelo Hall's claims the Falcons tried to do him wrong on the sideline, though obviously we know the league is reviewing it. 

Forget all the talk.  There won't be any significant action against Smitty or Jeff Fish or even LaRon Landry of the Redskins.

The hit was late, and it drew a flag.  Case closed.  It wasn't a vicious hit, and Landry left the area immediately (and even made peace with the Falcons while doing so).  There was plenty of yelling and some pushing, similar to what happens all the time when tempers flare up on the field.  But there was no major incident, and the only remotely significant item was the extra bump by Albert Haynesworth which drew the second flag.

The whole thing was a non-event, and the only reason anyone is talking about it at all is that ex-Falcon MeAnJello made all those insane post-game comments.

If any thing does come out of it, the most likely actions are a small fine against Albert Haynesworth and possibly some action against Hall for both instigating the situation and that obscenity-laced diatribe.   





Looking ahead to the second half of the season...  the Falcons were 5-3 at this point last year too.  They're now coming off the four game stretch that they simply needed to survive, and they came away 2-2 in those four games.  They did exactly what they had to do.

I won't say the rest of the schedule is easier in terms of the opponents, but other aspects of it do get better.  There are no more west coast trips or pre-scheduled Monday night games (still subject to flex scheduling) to mess up the travel and practice routines.  Also, we're now done with three of the four games against teams coming off of byes.

In the meantime, the young guys in the secondary have gotten some valuable experience, two new acquisitions (Tye Hill and Aaron Stecker) have stepped in very well, and some of the young d-linemen (particularly Kroy Biermann and Vance Walker) are also stepping up.

That will give the Falcons a boost in the second half.  We have better depth than many teams out there, and injuries are piling up all over the league - not just here.  If we can avoid injuries to significant players, we'll have an edge down the stretch.





Posted on: September 12, 2009 6:43 pm
 

First look at 2010 compensatory draft picks

The Atlanta Falcons gave up their 2010 seventh round draft pick to the Rams for Tye Hill.  They had earlier given up their second round pick to the Chiefs for Tony Gonzalez.

But in addition to the regular seven draft picks per team, the league also awards 32 compensatory draft picks to offset player losses due to free agency.  The league has a proprietary (translation:  secret) formula it uses to determine which free agents count and in what rounds the resulting compensatory draft picks will fall.

Some keys:  not every player counts.  The secret formula includes factors such as salary, playing time, postseason results and other awards/honors - with both the old and new teams.  Reverse engineering of the formula has found that by far the biggest factor is the salary received with the new team.

Also, only players that are true unrestricted free agents and who sign with their new team during the unrestricted free agency period count.  The signing period typically starts March 1 and runs through July, subject to minor calendar-related adjustments.  (This year's period opened on Feb 27 and ended July 27.)

Players who were released by their former clubs do not count.  Players who sign after June 1 that were not tendered offers by their former clubs also do not count.

Compensatory picks are based on NET loss of free agents.  If you lose four players that count to other teams but sign three, you have a net loss of one compensatory free agent.  You would typically expect to receive one compensatory pick.

No matter how many players you lose, you can receive at most four compensatory picks.

The formula places values on the players as well as counting them.  It's possible to get an extra pick if you sign the same number of guys as you lose - if the value of the guys you lose is much greater than the value of the ones you sign.  But the picks awarded this way will only be late seventh rounders.

Also note that there are always 32 and only 32 picks awarded.  If the formula determines that more than 32 are deserved, only the highest ranking 32 will be awarded.  If the formula comes up short, the remaining picks will be given to the teams that would be selecting first if there were an eighth round of the draft.  (That happened this year - and the Raiders and Chiefs got the final two picks of the draft as a result.)

It can get a little fuzzy as to which free agents count and which don't, and in what rounds the resulting picks will fall.  The key factor appears to be the salary with the new team.  Best guess =  guys with salaries below $800k will not count at all.  Guys above $900k probably will.  For the ones right in that $800-900k territory, playing time will decide it.


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


Here are the Falcons players, both coming and going, and how they might affect the Falcons draft in 2010:

Mike Peterson -  reportedly signed for 2 years, $6.6 million.  He counts as a player signed by Atlanta and will have a value around the 6th round.

Grady Jackson - reportedly signed a 3 year deal with the Lions for $8 million.  (Congratulations to the big man.  Falcons fans wanted him back, but we can understand our team not competing with that kind of offer.)   Best guess is he'll count as a seventh rounder, but he may be on the borderline of the 6th round..

Lawyer Milloy - will not count.  He signed with the Seahawks far too late.  (The idea is that these extra picks offset your losses in free agency.  If you don't even bother to tender him an offer, you didn't really lose him.  You threw him away.)

Brett Romberg - apparently signed a two year deal at an average of $800k per year.  The salary should be too low to count, and even if it's close, he's not a starter.  Unless someone gets hurt, he won't play enough snaps to count at all.

Verron Haynes - was out of the league last year.  Does not count.

Will Svitek - was released by the Chiefs last year.  Does not count.

Domonique Foxworth - signed a 4 year, $27 million deal with the Ravens.  My best guess is that he'll count as a 4th rounder, but there's a possibility he'll end up counting for a 3rd round pick.

Keith Brooking - signed a 3 year, $6 million deal with the Cowboys.  I think the borderline between 6th and 7th round picks will be around $2.5 million per year, so I suspect Brooking will count as a 7th rounder.

Michael Boley - signed a 5 year, 25 million deal with the Giants.  He'll be right around the borderline between a 4th and 5th.  I'll be optimistic and say a 4th, but playing time could drop him to the 5th - so root for him to start every game after this week and play nearly every snap.

Jeremy Newberry - signed June 15, then retired.  I'm 99% certain he doesn't count.

Marty Booker - signed in August.  Does not count.  (Ditto for Robert Ferguson and Jamie Winborn.)


I see four players who left Atlanta that will count and only one incoming player.  The Mike Peterson signing will offset the Grady Jackson loss, leaving Atlanta three compensatory picks:  a fourth rounder, a second fourth rounder or fifth rounder, and a seventh rounder.

We'll still feel the impact of losing the 2nd rounder in the Tony Gonzalez trade, but with potentially two extra picks coming at the end of round four, the Falcons still have the freedom to trade their own 5th and/or 6th round picks for extra help if needed.

 
 
 
 
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