Monday, September 2, 2013

9/2/13: Falcons vs Saints Preview

It’s been eight months since we saw the Atlanta Falcons fall 10 yards short of reaching the Super Bowl in a 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s NFC title game.  Now the Falcons are just five days away from opening the 2013 season against the hated division rival, New Orleans Saints as they look take the next step to getting a Lombardi to the great city of Atlanta.  

In 2012, the Falcons (13-3) got off to a franchise best 8-0 start before suffering their first loss of the season in the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in a week 10 battle in the bayou. This year Atlanta is heading to New Orleans with even more weapons in its arsenal by replacing Michael Turner with long time Rams workhorse Stephen Jackson. The addition of Jackson to an already potent offense should be more than enough to stress last year’s 32nd ranked and historically the NFL’s worse defense in terms of yards allowed in a single season, 7,042.

After serving a yearlong suspension for his involvement in the Bounty Scandal, what better way for Roger Goodell to welcome Saints coach Sean Payton back then throwing him into the fire and testing his offensive schemes against an opportunistic Falcons defense? 

Last season New Orleans got off to a 0-4 start before finishing 7-9 without Payton, easily making last year their most disappointing season in recent memory.

Last November, Payton looked on helplessly from his couch as the Falcons intercepted his star quarterback, Drew Brees, five times and ended his NFL record 54 consecutive games of throwing at least one touchdown in a week 13 rematch in the Georgia Dome.

Since then, Atlanta’s defense has experienced a miniature overhaul this offseason by replacing three of last years starters—Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, and John Abraham—with two rookie corners, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and two time Super Bowl Champion defensive end Osi Umenyiora , formerly of the New York Giants. The unit hopes to build off a year where they ranked 24th in total defense but 5th in points allowed with 18.7 under now second year coordinator Mike Nolan.

The Falcons defense isn’t the only unit that will be looking to improve off last year’s performance. Aforementioned, the Saints fielded the worse defense in the history of the league in 2012 and not surprisingly ranked toward the bottom in nearly every statistical defensive category.

During the off-season, New Orleans fired first year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and replaced him with Rob Ryan. The team also used three of its five draft picks on defensive talent along with bringing in cornerback Keenan Lewis and linebacker Victor Butler in hopes of improving on last year’s debacle of a defense. 

However, Atlanta is no stranger to Rob Ryan’s schemes; in 2012 they faced Ryan in a week nine match up versus the Dallas Cowboys.  The Falcons racked up 453 yards and averaged over seven yards per play against the Ryan’s defense as they went on to a 19-13victory.

While it is a new year and anything could happen, the Saints simply do not have enough talent on defense to contain; Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzales, Stephen Jackson, and Matt Ryan, but to be fair a lot of teams don’t.  If Atlanta jumps to a big lead, Drew Brees could be a sitting duck behind an offensive line that has had some turnover as Nolan likes to send pressure at the quarterback from every level at any time.


Since Atlanta has had some issues covering the position, New Orleans best bet would is to try and outscore Atlanta behind Brees and stellar tight end Jimmy Graham, or the Falcons will cruise to victory in the Big Easy. 

Look for the Falcons to take an early lead in the division as they try to become the first back to back division champions in the history of the NFC South. 

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Late Game Early: Falcons vs Lions Preview


Five days after routing the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants to the tune of 34-0, The Falcons are traveling to the Motor City for a Saturday night edition of Monday Night Football on ESPN to take on the struggling Detroit Lions.

In a game where Matt Ryan broke his own franchise record for passing yards in a season, where the Falcons saw Julio Jones have a home breakout performance going over the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his young career and the defense shut down Eli Manning and the Giants offense, Atlanta could very well be the hottest team in the NFC after hanging the largest loss on a defending Super Bowl Champion in NFL history. With one game away from securing the number one seed in the NFC playoff race, who better for the Falcons to play than Lions of Detroit?

After a time of prolonged mediocrity, the 2011 Detroit Lions had a breakthrough, winning 10 of 16 games and making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. However in 2012, they seemed homesick and set out to return to the pre-2011 form. This season the Lions are riding a six game skid as they sit in the cellar of the NFC North with a 4-10 record on the year. In week 15 the Lions were blown out by the even more pathetic Arizona Cardinals, 38-10, in a game where Mathew Stafford tossed three interceptions having two returned for touchdowns.

However there a few things that the Falcons cannot overlook if they want to leave the Motor City with a win. First, the Lions are the number two team in total offense, number one in passing (302 yards per game) and 23rd in rushing (104.4 yards per game). The second of which is a no-brainer, cover Calvin Johnson. Johnson is leading the receiver position in total yards, yard per game, targets and is one reception behind Chicago's Brandon Marshall for being tied with the lead in receptions.

Also the Falcons should not overlook the Lions proneness to turn the ball over. Detroit has gave the ball away 26 times this season have a -9 differential on the season. The Falcons defense have shown all season a knack for getting the football back for their offense, Atlanta is fifth in taking the ball away with 27 and are coming off a game where they forced three turnovers from the Giants who have a +13 differential. The Falcons have an opportunistic defense, while they may not be as stout as the number one defense, San Francisco; the Falcons have the fourth best scoring defense in the NFL giving up 18.5 points a game, going up against the 14th ranked scoring offense in the Detroit Lions.

Lastly the Falcons must avoid falling into one of those stints where they seem completely confused on offense. It’s been times this season where the Falcons have flat out struggled to move the ball and score. The game against the Giants last week made that problem seem like a distant memory however, if they really want to move past it, Atlanta has to march all over the Lions. Detroit is 12th in yards allowed per game with 337.5 but they are giving up 27 points which ranks 28th. We all know the Falcons can put up points, with the Terrible Trio at receiver they should have no problem getting their average 26 points per game in week 15.

The keys to winning this game are simple, play solid defense, move the ball on offense and do not underestimate the opponent. The Falcons are heading to the playoffs and should use this national stage as a simulation of how they want to perform come January. If the Falcons can string together another performance like they did last week, Atlanta should be in prime position to make a run deep into the postseason.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Imperfectly Perfect: BYE Week Fixes

Welcome back Falcons Fans, boy am I glad the bye week is over. Through seven weeks of football there is only one undefeated team in the Nation Football League and that is our ATLANTA FALCONS!!! Sitting at 6-0 with a cushy four game lead over the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons have been far from perfect. Coming out of the bye I tweeted, "What are some of the things fans would like to see corrected during the teams week off?" Along with my own additions and the response received via Twitter, let us discuss some of those grey areas that need to be cleared up if the Falcons want to continue this historic season.

Run Game

One of the few issues that is on the mind of fans is the lack of a run game and lack of production from Michael Turner. Once known as a run first team, Atlanta has absolutely shifted into a pass first offense which is great with players like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez it should be unstoppable, BUT the Falcons lack the balance needed to keep defense honest. The Falcons are ranked 30th in the run game averaging just 86.5 yards per game. Although Turner is averaging over four yards per carry, he has often times been tackled by the first guy and clearly lacks the burst he had in the past. All of the blame cannot be placed on Turner but if the Falcons are going to be the team to beat, they are going to have to find a way to run the football and couple it with that high powered aerial assault.

Play Calling


While the offense is confusing defenses at times, other times it just looks plain confused, mainly the in the play calling. Prime example is week six versus the Raiders after Ray Edwards returns a fumble to the two yard line. First and goal with a big bruiser like Michael Turner it is a full drawn conclusion that you're going to power the ball in for the obvious touchdown right?  WRONG! Instead the offense calls a pass for Julio Jones who didn't manage to get open and Ryan is forced to throw the ball out the back of the end zone. On Second down Atlanta tries a draw play with second year running back Jacquizz Rodgers which managed to go nowhere but then on third down Jason Snelling tries to jump over the line from two yards away? REALLY? and the Falcons is forced to kick a field goal. I understand the idea of not wanting to be predicable as an offense but don't get so cute with the calls to the point to where you are costing your team points, it is completely unacceptable. The Falcons are scoring 28.5 points per game but with a tweak to some play calls, Atlanta could be the top scoring team in the NFL.

Blocking and Protection

Remember when I said that Michael Turner wasn't to be solely blamed for the run game? Well that's because you can't hit a hole as a running back when there is no hole to run in. Plainly put, the line has got to create and sustain a push up front. Falcon fans are no stranger to seeing their featured ball carrier run up the backs of his linemen. If the line improves on blocking the Falcons can return to being one of the most feared running games in the NFL. Along with with the o-line, we have got to do a better job of sealing the edge, more importantly Tyson Clabo has got to stop getting beat like a Pi├▒ata on Cinco de Mayo. Ryan has been sacked 13 times this season and seven times in week four, many of which came against the right tackle. If this continues after the bye, look for changes to come. With studs like Julio and Roddy, Matt Ryan is going to need time to find them.

Run Defense and Tackling


To Many, the defense has been playing outstanding. The Falcons have forced 17 turnovers (10 Interceptions and recovered seven of nine forced fumbles). For the first time in years the secondary isn't getting carved up for big plays consistently and is ranked eighth in the league and the defense as a whole has sacked the opposing quarterbacks 16 times through the first half of the season. While this is great and the fans are excited about it, the Falcons are hurting in defending the run. The unit has allowed 143.8 yards and has given up 7 rushing scores in six weeks. However the Falcons have an answer to that issue and I must say it is a groundbreaking one and it is called. . . . TACKLING!! The Falcons have been missing tackles left and right which after watching the games I feel comfortable attributing that to a large part of why the rush defense is ranked 23rd. It's all about fundamentals and the unit knows that.


“We had a bunch in this past game and sometimes it’s just being too aggressive or not wrapping up. Sometimes it could be not seeing what you are hitting. It’s something that we’re going to work on and make sure that we are lining people up the right way and that they are taking the right angles. We need everybody swarming to the ball. If we go out there and do that, everybody will be fine.” -- Sean Weatherspoon (from ajc.com) 



Special Team- Punt Return

It's sure to not surprise many to know that Atlanta is ranked really low in the special team category but I must say I was completely shocked to find out that Falcons unit is tied with the San Diego Chargers for last place. Atlanta is averaging just 7.3 yards per punt return this season, seven of the 27 potential returns were actually returned, nine were fair caught four were ruled touchbacks and 10 were downed inside the 20 yard line. On Kickoffs however, things are not nearly as bad. When it comes to averages, Atlanta is eight in the league with 27.9 yards per return. Special teams have become of the most crucial aspects of the game and every punt and return has the potential of being a big play. Atlanta is going to have to catch up in order to be viewed as an all-around threat to contend as the season draws closer and closer to the end.


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Saturday, October 13, 2012

In "Smitty" We Trust

Coming off a year where a team saw its starting quarterback indicted on federal dog-fighting charges and its then head coach, Bobby Petrino, tuck tail and run back to the college ranks leaving letters on player stools with three games remaining in the season. The Atlanta Falcons could only wonder, What Next?

Finishing the 2007 season with a 4-12 record, Falcons Owner, Arthur Blank turned to the legendary Bill Parcells and offered him the chance to run the entire football operations of the ball club. With the deal reportedly in the closing stages, The Tuna backs out and decides to take his talents to South Beach to join the Miami Dolphins in the same role. 25 days later, a publicly embarrassed Blank hired New England's Director of College Scouting, Thomas Dimitroff as the new General Manager and for the first time since April 25th, 2007 things were finally going the Falcons way. 


On January 23, 2008, just ten days after his arrival in Atlanta, Thomas Dimitroff made his first and most important decision in his new role and hired then Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith as the teams 15th head coach in the franchises 42 year history. Instant reactions from the fan base, "Who?", and "How did they find this guy?" Smith was virtually unknown, not even a bleep on the NFL radar in the minds of some fans, and now he is the guy we expect to take us from under the barrel to the cream of the crop of football teams? No offense 2008 Mike Smith but Yeah Right. 

Lets fast forward four years eight months and 20 days, Who is Mike Smith? Only the 2008 Coach of the Year after posting an 11-5 record in his first season as a head coach with a rookie quarterback and one of the winningest coaches in the NFL since 2008. Under Smith, The 2012 Atlanta Falcons seem poised to make a deep run in the post season as the team is off to its first ever 5-0 start in team history.  

With two more victories, Smitty will pass Dan Reeves as the Falcons all time leader in coaching victories with 50. While it is an impressive feat and significant accomplishment for the once unknown coach Daytona Beach, Florida, I feel Smith doesn't hold it near the top of his list of priorities. Simply put Mike Smith wants to win a Superbowl and that is the attitude he is instilled in his players and the surrounding community. However off to a hot start, Coach Smith will not be caught looking ahead, 

“We have not played well in the second season,” Smith told PFT by phone after Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Redskins, in reference to the team’s 0-3 postseason mark since 2008.  “We’ve got to continue to play well now.  We’ll worry about the season season when it comes.”

Many feel the keys of being a Superbowl team is one that stays grounded during success, level headed during times of adversity and as the Falcons saw in the past two seasons, a team that is hot at the right time. After two crushingly embarrassing playoff showings, the team has no choice but to stay as grounded as possible.  When facing adversity this season, the players have banned together, whether it be on the field down in the fourth quarter or off the field supporting teammates who have found themselves in legal situations. This team is not easily shaken which is a long way away from where Mike Smith found them in 2008.

Lastly, is will the Falcons get hot and burn their way through the playoffs like Green Bay and New York have done? Who can say for sure but we can be certain that Smitty will do everything in his power to ensure that this hot start continues as long as it can. In Mike Smith the Falcons have found a leader, someone who can get the best out of the players and has restored hope in a fan base that was floating belly up before his arrival. After 42 years the Falcons finally got it right and are serious contenders to bring home a Championship. The march continues Sunday as the 5-0 Falcons take on the 1-3 Oakland Raiders.  

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Defense Manhandles Manning; Falcons 2-0

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
Atlanta: Michael Turner 1yd run (7-0)
Atlanta: Matt Bryant 37yd field goal (10-0)

Second Quarter
Atlanta: Matt Bryant 42yd field goal (13-0)
Atlanta: Tony Gonzalez 1yd pass from Ryan (20-0)
Denver: Demaryius Thomas 17yd pass from Manning (20-7)

Third Quarter
Atlanta: Roddy White 4yd pass from Ryan (27-7)

Fourth Quarter
Denver: Willis McGahee 2yd run (27-14)
Denver: Willis McGahee 2yd run (27-21)

The Atlanta Falcons ended the second week in the NFL on Monday Night Football hosting the Denver Broncos. This game featured two undefeated teams, a legend playing in his first road game since 2010 and a fifth year signal caller trying to silence the critiques and thrust himself into the elite category.

As a Falcons fan you have to have been excited about this game as the defense went toe to toe with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, Peyton Manning ( I surely was, since I had been placed in twitter jail twice during the broadcast). In the end the Falcons did just enough to hold off the Broncos and win 27-21. This was a good team win but still Atlanta has things to improve upon as the season moves forward.

Offense

Versus the Chiefs, the Falcons run game was practically nonexistent as the team managed only 84 yards on the ground. This week against the Broncos it wasn't much better, actually it was worse. Once known for being a power running team, Atlanta averaged just 2.4 yards on 28 attempts totaling out at 67 yards. Where is the rushing attack? Michael Turner led the team in rushing but only had 42 yards on 17 carries and 15 of those yards came on one play at the end of the game as the Falcons were running out the clock. Needless to say, that’s not going to cut it.

Another problem the offense is having this season is leaving points on the field. On four Denver turnovers, Atlanta only managed 13 points on three relatively short field drives. That is just unacceptable when your offense features Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Matt Ryan. Not turning turnovers into points can come back and bite you, and especially when you’re facing quarterbacks like Peyton Manning the lead is NEVER safe so scoring on every opportunity is very important.

The last issue with the Falcons is somewhat the play calling. Toward the middle of the game leading 20-7, Atlanta became really conservative, excessively running the ball up the middle gaining nothing more often than not. Matt Ryan was money the majority of the game so trying to pound the ball with a back that’s not producing was a bit puzzling to many fans. More often than not playing not to lose instead of playing to win will cost you a victory and possibly a chance to make the playoffs.

On the other hand, Matt Ryan and Roddy White seemed to be unstoppable as they played pitch and catch for most of the game. During the third quarter, it just didn't matter who was covering White, he was going to catch it and for big yardage. The two even connected for Ryan's 100th career touchdown pass during the game. None of this would have been possible without the outstanding play of the offensive line. The unit kept Ryan clean and allowed him time to find his receivers down the field. Ryan has been sacked twice this season however two sacks is a far cry from the nine allowed in the first two weeks of the 2011 season.

The offensive game ball goes to Matt Ryan and Roddy White.

Defense

This Mike Nolan defense picked up right where they left in Kansas City. My only gripe with the unit is the run defense has allowed 270 yards in the first two weeks including 118 by Willis McGahee. Running the ball give the opposition momentum and make you more susceptible to the big play or play action pass. The Falcons are going to have to improve in this area, especially with teams like Carolina, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Dallas, Washington and New York on the schedule.

I was really impressed, dare I say it, stunned by the style of defense played last night. It was like nothing I've ever seen in my years as a Falcons fan. There was so much pre-snap movement it was hard to tell what the unit was going to play. Don't believe me? Ask Peyton Manning. On his first three drives Manning threw three interceptions in his first 10 attempts.

Not only did they force three picks and a Moreno fumble, the defense led by safety William Moore had "The Sheriff" shaking in his boots most of the game. Nolan dialed up tons of pressure sending defensive backs and linebackers and the unit added three sacks to the already impressive stat line. However the most impressive part about the defense is the ability of the next man to step up when called. The Falcons used three different corners in the nickel position. Early in the game Asante Samuel went down and forced Christopher Owens to play outside and sent Robert McClain in to play as the nickel corner. A few plays later Owens went down with a head injury bringing Dominique Franks into the game and for the most part the unit didn't skip a beat.

The last thing that impressed me was the physicality of the defensive backs attacking the ball and bringing the BOOM to the Broncos players. If the unit can continue this intensity and "swagger" the rest of the season then look out for this Falcons Defense.

The defensive game ball goes to William Moore.

Other News

Early this morning, Atlanta Falcons running back, Michael Turner was arrested and charged with DUI and speeding, going 97 miles per hour in a 65 zone. The team has released a statement on the situation as we are forced to sit and see how the surely ensuing punishment unfolds.

During last night game Christopher Owens left the game with a concussion and is likely out for next week’s game vs. San Diego. Meaning Franks and McClain will battle for the open position at nickel corner.

In week two the New Orleans Saints dropped their second game of the season against the Panthers falling to 0-2 and last place in the NFC South. Tampa lost a close game to the Giants in the Meadowlands. Atlanta is now leading the division at 2-0 followed by Tamps (1-1) Carolina (1-1) and the Saints at 0-2.

Week 3 Preview

Falcons head to the west coast in week three to face the San Diego Chargers in a battle of unbeaten teams. Last time Ryan and Co. played the Chargers was in 2008, this was Michael Turner's first game against his former team and he rushed for 120 yards as the falcons left Qualcomm Stadium with the 22-16 Victory.

This year, however, the circumstances are a bit different. In 2012 Ryan is a five year pro, the Chargers are looking to go 3-0 for the first time in years, and former Charger Michael Turner may be riding the bench for his recent run in with the law. If the Falcons are going to win this game, they are going to have to bring the defense from Monday night and the offense from two weeks ago. If Atlanta plays a team game it could get ugly for the Chargers who are looking to get a win versus the first winning team they have played all season.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Falcons Throttle Chiefs In Arrowhead

Scoring Summary 

First Quarter
Atlanta: Julio Jones 8yd pass from Ryan (7-0)
Kansas City: Ryan Succop 39yd field goal (7-3)
Atlanta: Matt Bryant 34yd field Goal (10-3)

Second Quarter
Kansas City: Kevin Boss 22yd pass from Cassel (10-10)
Atlanta: Julio Jones 14yd pass from Ryan (17-10)
Kansas City: Matt Cassel 5yd run (17-17)
Atlanta: Matt Bryant field goal (20-17)

Third Quarter
Atlanta: Matt Ryan 5yd run (27-17)
Atlanta: Tony Gonzalez 7yd pass from Ryan (34-17)

Fourth Quarter
Atlanta: Matt Bryant 30yd field goal (37-17)
Atlanta: Matt Bryant 41yd field goal (40-17)
Kansas City: Shaun Droughn (Drone) (40-24)


Week one in the books, and boy does it feel good to be back to football. We saw our Atlanta Falcons go up and blow out the Chiefs at home, opening up the season with the clubs first road opening week victory under the leadership of Mike Smith. Just looking at the score you would think it was a blow out from start to finish, and as much as I would to paint it that way, that wasn't the case.

The Chiefs played great football in the first half and it was a shootout up until halftime before the Falcons were able to control the game and pretty much end it in the third quarter. All in all this was a good team win, to open the season but there was defiantly some things that need to be cleaned up on both sides of the ball and some things that we as fans hope we continue to see from our 2012 team.

Offense

I personally like to receive the bad news before the good so let’s start with the things that need work. First off... Where is the run game? I understand Atlanta is moving toward a high flying offense and all that but when 25 of the teams 84 rushing yards come from your pocket passing quarterback something isn’t right.

Atlanta's bruiser running back, Michael Turner only rushed for 32 yards and honestly looked no different than he did in the preseason. Granted Turner had been known to get rolling later in games but with Coach Smith wanting to get second year back Quizz more involved, he is going to have to do more limited carries. 11 carries to be exact.

The other problem I had with the offense is the red zone production. Atlanta scored on its first 8 possessions however 4 of those scores were points scored by kicker Matt Bryant, 3 of which came from inside Kansas City's 20 yard line. When you move the ball down the field or is presented with a short field it is imperative that you take full advantage of those chances. Maybe it’s because its week one in a new offense but you can rest assured that Smitty is going to do everything in his power to get his team 6 points every time Ryan and company enter the opponents red zone.

The positive things that stood out with the offense is the most obvious. The team put up 40 points on the road with little of a run game. Make what you want about the depleted Chief secondary, every player has a job on defense; first, second, and third string, and that is to stop the other team from scoring points.

Matt Ryan shredded the Chiefs through the air for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns, while adding another 25 yards and another score on the ground. Ryan and Julio Jones really had it going on as the two connected on 6 of 9 passes for 106 yards and couple of scores. Jones a complete terror against Kansas City, catching pass after pass for big yards. On Jones's first touchdown got behind their Jacques Reeves on what looked to be a nine route after getting a clean release at the line and Ryan put it on the money for six.

The most improved part of this offensive attack is the offensive line. The line did give up a sack, however Ryan all kinds of time against the Chiefs and when he had to he stepped up and delivered strikes like he did late in the third quarter when he found legend Tony Gonzalez in the end zone in his return to the place where his career started 16 years ago.

This week’s offensive game ball goes to Matt Ryan.

Defense

Now on defense, the Falcons started off really bad. The unit allowed Matt Cassel and the Chiefs to move the ball up and down the field in the first half, giving up big play after big play and the BVG comparisons were flowing and plentiful. The defensive line was getting pushed around by the opposition and the secondary always seemed to be out of position allowing the chiefs to convert 11 of 16 3rd down attempts and 5 of 6 in the first half giving up 17 points.

But that is where the Van Gorder comparisons stop. After halftime, coordinator Mike Nolan's unit came out a different ball club and put the clamps down on the chiefs. In the second half, the Falcons held Kansas City to 6 of 10 on third down attempts. No it’s not great but 60% is much better than the 83% surrendered in the first thirty minutes of play.  

The Falcons brought down Cassel 3 times in the game and at halftime linebacker Stephen Nicholas led the charge and it looked as if the entire unit fed off his energy. Riding this wave, the Falcons defense forced three turnovers, 2 interceptions and a sack fumble by John Abraham. If the unit can continue this intensity throughout the season and correct these third down woes, this can and will be an elite defense.

This week’s defensive game ball goes to Stephen Nicholas.

Other News

Unfortunately Falcons Pro Bowl Corner Brent Grimes is done for the year after injuring his Achilles against the Chiefs. This is a huge blow to the secondary but a bigger blow as Grimes was designated the teams franchise player this off season. In the loss of Grimes, Robinson and Samuel will play outside and Chris Owens will take over at the nickel back position.

To counteract the injury Atlanta has signed Terrence Johnson, a college free agent signed by New England in 2009 and most recently played for the Colts in 2011.

Also in week one the Saints fall to the Redskins at home and Tampa Bay secured a victory against the Carolina Panthers. This victory places the Buccaneers atop the division followed by Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina.

Week 2 Preview

In week two the Falcons will be coming home to host the Denver Broncos led by Peyton Manning. In week one the Broncos beat the Steelers 31-19 and the quarterback who sat out a year passed for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. Matt Ryan has never played against Manning and this game could serve as a huge measuring stick to gauge how far he is from being placed in that elite category of quarterbacks.

Denver's Defense has some great players and could be a challenge for Atlanta as they are still adjusting and setting into a new scheme. Keep an eye on Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil as both of them love to get after the quarterback. This matchup also features three former Jaguar coaches (Mike Smith, Jack Del Rio, and Dirk Koetter) which should cause for a little extra gamesmanship as they attempt to match wits in efforts to propel their respective teams to victory. The Falcons have not lost a week two home match up under Mike Smith and he looks to improve to 4-0 after this week’s game.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Post Training Camp Observations: Offense


Welcome back readers, it has been a while since the last post and we have a few things to discuss. Since the last post, the Falcons have ended Training Camp and are about to start the regular season practice schedule. Now that camp has broken and the team has two preseason games in the books, I think it is a good time to point to a few things that have stood out to me on the offensive side of the ball.

First and foremost. WOW! Is this the same offensive line unit for a year ago? We all are aware that last year’s unit wasn't so great. Ryan was sacked 26 times and hit an eye opening 84 times, clearly that is not the type of beating you want your franchise quarterback to be taking. Through the preseason the line has looked phenomenal in the passing game; Ryan has yet to be sacked and for the most part has had time to make the throws.

"I think two games into [the exhibition season] I haven't been hit yet. I keep telling them 'Keep that up and it’s going to be a fun year.'" -- Matt Ryan (from ajc.com)

As we all know if a quarterback isn't sacked, that typically bodes well for the rest of the offense and the team as a whole.

The next thing that has caught my eye and surely the eyes of many is the Ryan-Jones connection. Boy have they looked sharp! Over the first two games the duo has been dynamic. (Hmm Dynamic Duo?? I like the sound of that) While only playing in what equates to about a half of football the two have hit on nine passes for 150 yards and an amazing touchdown. After having a rookie season put on hold due to labor disputes and shortened by a nagging hamstring injury, Jones is really starting off strong as a second year pro and according to position coach Terry Robiskie it starts on the practice field and in the changes in his preparation for the game.

"Every Sunday in the NFL is like Alabama-Florida or Alabama-LSU. We don't have Louisiana-Monroe on the schedule, we don’t have Troy on the schedule between the big games to slow the tempo down. Every week you've got to go play LSU, you've got to go play Florida. That's a grind." -- Terry Robiskie (from Yahoo Sports

Even with the numbers the duo is putting up I wouldn't be so quick to believe Ryan has found a new number one guy. While Matty Ice is surely enjoying his new toy, he still looks to veteran wide out Roddy White to move the chains. White has caught seven passes this preseason for 100 yards resulting in seven first downs.

Lastly, the Falcons Offense and Michael Turner. More importantly does he still fit the plan? It’s been well advertised that the team is shifting to a more pass oriented attack with a multitude of screen passes, deep balls and things like that. The thing that has been nagging in the back of my mind is where does this leave Turner and the run game? As I have been watching the preseason games, I can't help but notice that the running back is looking very slow when he has the ball. Averaging four carries in each of the games Turner is gained 14 yards rushing total, while second year back Jacquizz Rodgers has toted the rock 13 times for 57 yards and a score. New Offensive Coordinator, Dirk Koetter, insists he does not focus on run game during the preseason. . .

"To be honest, I never worry about the running game in preseason. I just don’t see why you want to plow it up in there and get your backs beat up. We know Michael Turner can run the football." -- Dirk Koetter (from ajc.com)

Are you buying that? I certainly didn't expect him to say "Turner is old and slow so we are not going to run him" but the film tape doesn't lie. I've never been the type to second guess a coach on the production of a player but for many fans, including myself, it’s a troubling thought that Turner might be struggling.

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