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Josh Scobee kicked a pair of filed goals while Trevor Harris went 8-for-12 for 86 yards for the Jaguars, who finished their preseason with a mark of 2-2 and open their regular season at home against Denver on September 12.
Chris Redman went 15-for-22 for 142 yards and Matt Bryant connected on three field goals for the Falcons, who went 2-2 in the preseason and begin their regular season in Pittsburgh on September 12.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bryant connected on a 31-yard field goal to give Atlanta the lead, but Bolen punched the ball into the end zone later in the frame for a 7-3 advantage.
Scobee and Bryant traded field goals later in the frame and it was a 10-6 game at the break.
Scobee added a 49-yard field goal in the third to stake Jacksonville to a 13-6 advantage.
Bryant’s 25-yard boot between the uprights in the fourth accounted for the final score.
The good news? No one on the Atlanta Falcons was injured in the first half of their final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The bad news? Well, there’s not really any bad news after the first 30 minutes. Just no news. Head coach Mike Smith opted not to play key starters on both sides of the ball. That’s not too surprising, but typically most guys see at least some action in the final preseason game – a series or two at least. Not tonight.
So, it hasn’t exactly been an overly entertaining affair, but the Falcons only trail 10-6 at half. Chris Redman saw all the snaps in the first half. He completed 15-of-22 passes for 142 yards, with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.
The Falcons have until September 4 to decide which of their current 75 players will make the final 53. Coach Mike Smith acknowledges tonight will decide the fates of several players. Here’s a look at a few guys with a lot to play for:
Cornerback: Veteran Brian Williams, returning from an ACL injury, and third-year Chevis Jackson, sneaker fiend, are the guys with the most to prove tonight. Williams was briefly a Smitty man during Coach’s time in Jacksonville, which likely helps his cause. The Falcoholic is largely unimpressed by Williams. Jackson hasn’t played all that much and has been hit-or-miss this preseason; D. Led thinks Jackson will go.
Defensive tackle: We interviewed former Tech man Vance Walker a few weeks ago, leading your correspondent to pull mightily for Walker tonight. Trey Lewis is also on the line. The team could certainly elect to keep five tackles, but Jamaal Anderson’s part-time interior lineman status could move coaches to free up a roster space. The Falcoholic sees both remaining with the team.
Wide receiver: Kerry Meier’s unfortunate injury opened the receiver competition back up, after he’d clearly grabbed hold of a backup spot. If the team decides to keep six receivers, the job is probably former Georgia Force star Troy Bergeron’s to lose, but rookies Brandyn Harvey and Ryan Wolfe may be in the mix.
Linebacker: There are questions of who will start at linebacker, which we’ll get to next week. But for now, we’ll be watching to see whether ridiculous upsider Spencer Adkins, fan favorite Bear Woods, or special teams captain Coy Wire are able to stick around.
Halfback: The threesome of Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, and utility man Jason Snelling seemed to wrap up the position. But Antone Smith, a practice squadder last year, has been electric at times this preseason, and he may be able to squeeze into a special teams job. Plus, the team could use another speed back in the event of a Norwood injury, which is not an infrequent event.
The Falcons are in north Florida, set to play the Jaguars in both teams’ final preseason game Thursday night at 7:30. The Falcons-Jags rivalry hasn’t quite risen to the level of the other Georgia-Florida game played in Jacksonville from time to time, but we can still make the most of it.
The contest will mostly be an audition to determine which 53 players make the final roster. Still, it’s morbidly crucial that we know our enemy. If only they would hand over all their secrets to us via the internet…
Luckily, The Falcoholic has lured Big Cat Country, SB Nation’s tremendous Jags blog, into just such a trap.
Dave Choate: Tell us about Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s sitting out pre-season as a precaution, and not because he’s got a lingering injury, right?
Jonathan Loesche: There was a report that was later proven false that MJD had a clean up procedure done on his knee. He’s out mostly because of precautionary measures.
Ball Hawk: Do you guys have a kicker or WR we can have?
Zoltan from Budapest: Maybe. Troy Williamson.
Ball Hawk: Uh….How bout a kicker, rather.
Sadly, The Falcoholic spoiled its advantage by strutting right into Big Cat Country’s hands.
Jonathan Loesche: What is the consensus on [former Jaguars coordinator] Mike Smith?
Dave Choate: We’re all happy with him. He’s a good, hard-nosed coach. If he had better coordinators around him, he might be truly exceptional, but we’ll certainly settle for a guy who motivates and puts the team in a position to succeed.
Ewdtrey: I was a big fan of the back out of Arizona State, Dimitri Nance. I’m assuming he is doing well. After I found out you guys got him as an UDFA, I thought, poor man’s Michael Turner with hands. How have you all liked him so far?
Dave Choate: We like him. He’s a practice squad candidate. His problem is that Antone Smith, an UDFA last year, is playing even better than him this pre-season, and the Falcons will only carry at most four backs.
Blair72: Can we trade head coaches?
Dave Choate: I’m gonna say no again.
Matt Bryant is a veteran NFL kicker. He’s made big kicks in big moments, experienced what it’s like to kick under extreme pressure, and while we’re at it, had his fair share of failures, which if nothing else has tested the 35-year old throughout his career.
Bryant was solid, not spectacular for the Falcons last year. He converted all 10 of his extra points, and was true on seven of his 10 field goal attempts. Not bad, but not exactly money in the bank either. So, the Falcons were hoping to see Bryant perform consistently this preseason and that’s not at all been the case. Bryant has three misses – including one PAT – this preseason, and head coach Mike Smith is concerned:
“That’s one of many concerns I have,‘’ coach Mike Smith said Tuesday. "You’ve got to kick the ball between the uprights, especially on extra points. When you’re kicking a 50-yarder, it’s a little bit different situation. But we’ve got to make extra points.’’
In the article, Bryant mentions that he stupidly changed his pre-kick routine ever so slightly, and that he’s upset with himself for doing so knowing that kickers rely almost exclusively on the routine and approach they’ve established for themselves. Whatever the case may be, Bryant better sort out the problem sooner rather than later.
“When a kicker makes a mistake, everybody in the stadium knows about it,‘’ Smith said. "When an offensive lineman or defensive lineman makes a mistake, you have to have a trained eye to really know who made the mistake. But special teams are not like offense and defense. When you’re out there on special teams, you’ve got one snap. … You don’t get a second chance.’’
Proving I know nothing about football, the Falcons released one of their many defensive tackles today. Auburn’s Thomas Johnson played in13 games last year, starting 10, and recorded two sacks, but the Falcons have essentially added two and a half tackles to the defensive line rotation by drafting Corey Peters, welcoming back injured Peria Jerry, and converting Jamaal Anderson to a tweener.
Other remaining defensive tackles: Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker, and Trey Lewis. Johnson’s release is a good sign for Walker and Lewis, the other two on the bubble. It wouldn’t be outlandish to think five pure tackles could make the final roster.
Cutting fifth-year special teamer Matt Giordano leaves the Falcons with six more safeties, a sensible number for the time being, though at least one and possibly two more will need to go.
The Falcons must cut somewhere between one and two players today. They need to be down to 75 players this afternoon.
Cornerback, quarterback, defensive tackle, kicker, and punter are among the positions least likely to lose any players today. There appears to be quite a pileup at safety and center, but my money is on defensive end Maurice Lucas because I’ve never heard of him.
The Falcoholic has been discussing roster maneuvers throughout the week.
D. Led reports Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann, the team’s preseason defensive star, missed practice Sunday and Monday. That’s about all we know at this point:
He looked fine and wasn’t wearing a brace, boot or sling … Falcons coach Mike Smith is not announcing injuries until he has to release a league-mandated injury report on Wednesday before the first game.
It sounds like no big deal, especially since the Falcons are among the league leaders in overstating the severity of injuries. Biermann should be ready to play a starter’s token drive against the Jaguars Thursday night.
The Falcons let go a pair of unsigned rookies today.
Cornerback Gabe Derricks was brought on shortly after the draft. He was waived and re-signed earlier this month.
Offensive lineman Mark Ortmann was signed last week after the Quinn Ojinnaka trade. Ortmann had previously spent a couple months with the Panthers before being waived. Mike Smith admitted on Friday that he didn’t “know a lot about Mark,” and now it looks like things will stay that way.
Six second half notes:
Peria Jerry finally got a couple pass rush hurries once his little brother, Dolphins guard John Jerry, left the game. This round went to the junior Jerry.
The Dolphins committed nine penalties for 75 yards, while the Falcons were only flagged for 17 yards.
Backup quarterback Chris Redman should play the first drive of every Falcons game while Matt Ryan jumps rope to burn nervous energy. The vet, who completed five of eight passes and threw a pretty touchdown to Brian Finneran, is simply more decisive and less fidgety than Ryan. An at-peace Ryan is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but it often takes a few drives for him to find his rhythm.
Miami only attempted the Wildcat three times that I noted, totaling ten yards. Atlanta spent time preparing for the distinctly South Beach formation this week, but didn’t need to worry about it all that much tonight.
Matt Bryant missed an extra point, but we’re choosing to blame it on Sun Life Stadium’s infield dirt. Call it a broken bat dribbler that he failed to run out.
Returning Falcons update: receiver Harry Douglas caught four balls, and halfback Jerious Norwood got six touches. Both played for a while and absorbed significant contact.
Supposed bust Jamaal Anderson scored two tackles for loss and forced a dubious intentional grounding. The Falcon pass rush has looked very good all preseason, especially considering how half-hearted it was in 2009.
See The Falcoholic in the morning for expert analysis and at least one comment overstating the importance of preseason games.
With just about 10 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter of the Atlanta Falcons’ third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons hold a 16-6 lead and seem poised to improve their preseason record to 2-1.
Being that it’s so late in the game, the starters are long since done for the night, including All World tight end Tony Gonzalez.. The future Hall of Famer did haul in 3 passes for 30 yards during the first half. The performance was nothing spectacular, but it was nevertheless a nice reminder that Atlanta will still be heading into the new year with one of the league’s more capable tight ends.
On Thursday, Gonzalez joined The Dan Patrick Show to talk about a number of interesting topics – the evolution of the tight end in the NFL since his career began, how and why he thinks the tight end position is one of the absolute hardest in the game, still being hungry as ever to win a Super Bowl, and several other interesting topics compliments of Patrick’s good interviewing skills.
What he thought when people said that Tim Tebow could play tight end:
“I thought it was ridiculous. It is not an easy position to me, maybe I am being biased. But to me it is the second hardest position on the offensive side of the ball because, obviously the quarterback is number one, but you have to know every blocking scheme. You have got to know all of those calls that the lineman have to yell out because you are part of the running game and then you have to know everything in the receiving game. The receivers just have to worry about, they hear a run called, oh I have got to block the guy in front of me, it is real simple. But the blocking scheme at the tight end is as hard as just like the offensive lineman but then you have got to know passes, the hot routes. You are all over the field so it is tough.”
Whether he thinks he has Hall-of-Fame-type numbers already:
“I don’t know. I am looking at Shannon Sharpe and they won’t let him the Hall yet and he should be there in my opinion. When he retired he led in every category statistically and had three Super Bowl rings and he is still not in the Hall of Fame… I don’t know what it is. What does it take?”
Hopefully when you hear from us next, the Falcons will have finished off the ’Fins in what thus far has been a fairly impressive performance by Atlanta.
The Falcons’ first-team offense played the entire first half, with what the French refer to as mixed results.
Michael Turner carried the ball 16 times and ran very strong early, but the Dolphins solved Atlanta’s run blocking and limited him to 47 yards on the half. Matt Ryan had his usual early-game jitters and overthrows. His footwork may have been worsened by Sun Life Stadium’s baseball-diamond-laden field. Falcons receivers also dropped three passes, but the passing game picked up during a long no-huddle drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
Atlanta’s second drive was the first-team offense’s first touchdown of the preseason, with Ryan connecting on two crucial third-and-longs, including one to Harry Douglas. Ryan lasered an undefendable strike to White in the end zone, who leapt and shielded the ball with his body. A perfect pass, and the preseason’s offensive highlight.
The D is here to play, holding Miami to 110 total yards (and its famous Wildcat to only five). Miami receiver Brandon Marshall is too much for a Falcons’ secondary short Dunta Robinson, with three catches for 51 yards. If quarterback Chad Henne had more time to throw, Marshall would’ve been able to run down another 25-yarder at the expense of Brent Grimes.
Speaking of the pass rush: Kroy Biermann added to his sack total, but disappointingly failed to strip the ball as he did in weeks one and two. Biermann also blew up a fourth down conversion attempt in the backfield. Sean Weatherspoon added what should’ve been a forced intentional grounding, and Curtis Lofton has patrolled the sidelines very well.
Both quarterbacks threw a pick, with Ryan’s a sort of what-the-heck lob at the end of the half, and Henne’s a ball tipped by Mike Peterson into Erik Coleman’s hands.
Longsuffering second-year Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry returns to the lineup tonight, his first up-suiting since last year’s week two game against Carolina when he suffered a season-ending knee.
The Orlando Sun Sentinel interviews Peria’s younger brother, Dolphins guard John Jerry, about growing up Jerry and the imminent faceoff.
We also learn John had teeth at birth, making him more like a shark than a dolphin. NOTE: I don’t know anything about which animals are born with teeth. Visit The Falcoholic for more on Peria Jerry and less on John Jerry’s power animal.
JakeLong77: A good friend of mine from the falconeer……chandler12, has been mentioning Harry Douglas for a couple of years now. He was devastated when Harry went down last year in training camp. Do you think he could be a force for your WR corp this year?
Dave Choate: I think he’ll be very effective
In this crowded offense, he may only get 30 catches, but he’s the best deep threat we have. What he does with his limited catches will determine how effective he is, but he’s got the speed and agility to make things happen.
Zippo729: Do you think Chad Henne is the man for you guys for now and for the future? He was definitely a pleasant surprise for you guys last year and certainly a surprise for most people who didn’t know anything about him. What are your thoughts on him?
Chupathingy: Yeah, Henne looks to be our QB for the future. He still has a few things in his game that he needs to work on, like his touch passes, but a lot of that will come as he gets more experience. He still has less than a year of starting experience at the NFL level as he didn’t start for us until Pennington went down last year. But from what we are hearing from practices and training camp, he has made some good improvements to his game from last year.
Red Dog: What aspects of the Fins do the Falcons worry about?
Dave Choate: We worry about Marshall. Our secondary is still shaky and let’s face it, the Falcon cornerbacks aren’t lighting the world on fire even if you give them and kerosene.
We’re going to find out in a hurry how the D-Line does. Mike Nolan found out last season that our pass blocking can be surprisingly good.
orang3b: How excited are you about Karlos Dansby? (I think he’s a massive upgrade)
Chupathingy: I am very excited about having Dansby. One of our big weaknesses at the ILB position was the fact that none of our guys were very good at dropping back into coverage. Dansby has shown to be pretty good in that department, which means we can have guys like Channing Crowder focusing more at run stopping, which is where he is much better. I think that having Dansby in there will make the whole LB corp more fluid and able to play more to their strengths, and thus maximize their effectiveness.
wild zion beaver: Yes feed that wolf, infact the whole offencive line r a bunch of wolves. They must be feed much & often!
This is zion, & we r not afraid. Make my life compleat, it’s bring your own fan night!
Dave Choate: What?
Veteran cornerback Brian Williams is reportedly feeling healthy enough to give it a go this Saturday night when the Atlanta Falcons square off against the Miami Dolphins in what will be the third preseason affair for both teams.The 31-year old Williams has sat out the team’s first two preseason contests due to an ailing knee that’s not yet at 100% following reconstructive surgery last season.
“Brian has been practicing full-go only once a day over probably the last seven or eight practices,” [head coach Mike] Smith said Tuesday. “We’re hoping nothing flares up, and he’ll be able to participate in the game.”
It could be now or never for Williams’s career. That may sound a bit dramatic, but considering his age, a potential lockout in 2011, and the never-ending desire for teams to cultivate their young talent, Williams could stand to catch a break with his knee and make it through this season unscathed injury-wise. His quest back begins in earnest this weekend.
Rookie guard Mike Johnson, the Falcons' third-round pick from Alabama, left practice early with a sprained knee. Considering the team just traded backup guard Quinn Ojinnaka to the Patriots, this is hardly welcome news. Johnson isn't expected to start anytime soon, but it would be ideal to get the new guys as many live reps as possible.
Still, it doesn't sound like Mike Johnson is expected to face that much of a setback. The injury appears similar to the one suffered by Johnson's rookie interior line counterpart, Corey Peters, during last week's game against New England.
According to D. Led:
Depth chart implications for Friday night's game in Miami: we'll see more of Jose Valdez than usual, and perhaps more of new signee Mark Ortmann than expected.
Coach Mike Smith on the first day of one-a-day practices, also known as just plain practices, via Jay Adams:
It was good to be in a one-a-day practice that’s for sure. Players and coaches are all a little excited about it. We started a week of game preparation, even though this is Monday on the calendar it’s Wednesday for the coaching staff and the players. The guys came out and we looked at some of the situations that we will on Wednesdays and I thought it went pretty good.
The Birds play the Dolphins Friday night. Despite reminding us after the Pats drubbing that nobody gameplans in the preseason, the team still wants to make sure nobody ends up looking foolish while staring down Miami’s demanding Wildcat offense. Also via Jay Adams:
“We’ve just got to know it so when you see it, you’re ready for what you have to do and nothing extra,” defensive tackle Trey Lewis said, “because a lot of times, you’ll think you’re going to go out there and make a play and you do the wrong thing, then that exposes us for the big gains instead of just something short.”
The Falcoholic is on a very brief hiatus for a day or two, so feel free to remain right where you are for Falcons discussion. You didn’t expect me to say that, but life’s like that sometimes.
During their stay in Flowery Branch last week, Bill Belichick's Patriots must have seen something they liked in Falcons backup guard/tackle Quinn Ojinnaka. D. Led reports:
Falcons offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka has been traded to the New England Patriots for an undisclosed draft pick, the Falcons announced.
The Falcons have some spare talent at offensive line, but haven't quite seemed to be bursting with depth. Last year the fivesome weathered injuries to Sam Baker and others, with Ojinnaka making five starts at right guard in place of the injured Harvey Dahl. Ojinnaka has participated in 39 games in four years as a Falcon. He also has to serve a one-game suspension during this season's opening week for a domestic dispute.
Ojinnaka joins a Patriots roster that currently lists seven utility offensive linemen, in addition to the eight offensive linemen with designated positions. Starting guard Logan Mankins has yet to report for camp, and his backup Nick Kaczur is injured.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Corey Peters’ knee injury is nothing to lose sleep over:
Atlanta Falcons rookie defensive tackle Corey Peters’(notes) sprained left knee isn’t regarded as a serious injury, according to NFL sources with knowledge of the situation.
Instead of a long-term convalescence, Peters’ recovery time is expected to last between 10 and 14 days.
Peters will likely be held out of one or both of the team’s preseason games, but he should be available to help fill in for the suspended Jonathan Babineaux during week one in Pittsburgh.
Continue to The Falcoholic for discussion on all things Falcons.
According to D. Led:
If accurate, this is a huge relief, especially after the loss of Meier.
Matt Ryan and other offensive starters played three drives, two of substance that led to two field goal attempts. Kicker Matt Bryant connected on one, prompting Falcoholics to wonder if the team’s kicking competition was settled just a bit too early. Atlanta's pass protection looked much improved from last week, only giving up three quarterback hits.
Former Bama star John Parker Wilson played the rest of the game, except for a Chris Redman cameo at the end. Wilson is thought to be the team’s third-string quarterback, and the Mike Smith regime has been known to click Randomize when configuring preseason QB depth charts. D.J. Shockley started a game once, for instance. Wilson played more like a third-stringer, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt against the Patriots’ B- and C-teams.
Highly hyped (by Falcons blogs, at least) Kroy Biermann accumulated his second strip-sack of the preseason. The Falcons’ pass defense played reasonably well, considering they were missing three of their best cornerbacks, among other noteworthy non-participants. Let’s face it: our backup corners are not as good as Tom Brady and Randy Moss, the principals of the highest-scoring offense in NFL history. I think we’re ok with that.
The run defense, however, clearly has a way to go after giving up big runs to young Chiefs runners last week and letting veteran Pats backs Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor run wild tonight. The pair combined for 106 yards and a 6.2 yards per carry average. The Pats were able to convert several long third downs by running simple draws. That’s not supposed to happen.
The only noteworthy injury of the second half: rookie receiver Kerry Meier grabbed his knee after tumbling on kick coverage, but walked off the field unlimpingly.
Birds fans are unhappy, but still. This is preseason. For evidence of how much these games matter, take a look at Colts backup quarterback Curtis Painter’s perfect passer rating from his efforts against the Bills tonight. (Yes, your correspondent took last week’s win as seriously as this loss.)
Atlanta’s three-day baseball-esque series with the Patriots is over. The Falcons look ahead to a week of practice and an August 27 matchup against the Dolphins in Miami.
The only new injury to add to the list after tonight’s exhibition first half of for-profit football, according to Daniel Cox: rookie defensive tackle Corey Peters has sustained a knee injury, and is questionable to return tonight. This doesn’t sound all that long-term, a one-night-stand of a malady.
Though the team hasn’t wowed anyone tonight, all preseason game goals are intact. Coaches are getting a good look at young players, and young players are getting live experience. In fact, a bizarre roughing the kicker penalty gave the defense another series of red zone work after they’d forced a fair and square stop.
Quite a few regulars are missing from tonight’s action due to medical concerns, including Jerious Norwood, Peria Jerry, and perhaps the team’s top three cornerbacks, and we’re delighted to have nobody to add to that list at this point.
Falcoholic comment overflow thread.
It hasn’t been a disaster per se, but not too much has gone right either for the Atlanta Falcons during their Thursday night tilt against the New England Patriots.
Through two quarters of play, the Falcons trail Tom Brady and the Patriots by a score of 14-3. The Falcons starting offensive looked fairly solid. Matt Ryan completed 8-of-16 passes for 73 yards; Michael Turner rushed for 32 yards on 8 carries; and most importantly, the Falcons avoided the injury bug for the first 60 minutes.
Despite only mustering three points, the Falcons did have two other successful offensive series. The first was with Matt Ryan still under center, but Matt Bryant missed from 47 yards out on his second attempt of the evening (he was true from 48 yards on his first kick). The second came near the end of the half. With Ryan on the bench, John Parker Wilson threatened to get the offense back in FG range, but the drive stalled inside the Pats’ 40 yard line and ended with Parker Wilson’s interception on 4th and 15.
As for the Falcons’ defense? Well, not much positive to say on that front. Tom Brady carved up the Falcons for 85 yards on 10-of-12 passing and a touchdown. Fred Taylor chipped in with a 28-yard rushing score to extend New England’s lead to 14-3.
Join fellow Falcons fans for a running conversation during the second half over at The Falcoholic.
Ryan Hudson from SB Nation Boston, Greg Knopping from Pats Pulpit, and Brian Favat from BC Interruption have kindly lent us a Northeastern perspective on some stories revolving around tomorrow night's preseason game. The Falcons welcome the Patriots into the Dome for an official non-official game after two days of joint practices.
The teams have a number of personnel connections, including Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons GM and former Pats' director of scouting, and quite a few players.
SBN ATL: Former Falcon Alge Crumpler certainly seems to have bought into the Patriot way. How has your fanbase responded to him?
Pats Pulpit: While Alge Crumpler still is on top of the tight end depth chart for the Patriots, he may not stay there for long, as rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been playing well and are the future for the Patriots.
Crumpler has been welcomed very well by the Patriots fan base. He works hard, says all the right things, and has seemingly been a great mentor for the young tight ends on the roster. It seems like he could very well become a fan favorite for the Patriots in 2010.
SBN ATL: Having been a young quarterback in Boston, Matt Ryan clearly looks up to Tom Brady. How do Boston College fans feel about Ryan's career so far?
BC Interruption: It certainly didn't come as a surprise to Superfans when Matt Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 regular season record and a playoff berth in his rookie season. Just like his time at BC, he started off wow-ing fans with his poise and ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Ryan's 2008 performance against the Bears was reminiscent of his late-game heroics in a 14-10 victory at Virginia Tech when the Eagles were ranked #2 in the country.
I think last season, Ryan went through a bit of a sophomore slump that was due in part to some lingering injuries and some injuries from the supporting cast. As a BC fan, I felt that Ryan wrongly shouldered much of the blame for Atlanta's struggles last season. When he returned from injury, he seemed to return to form, winning the last three games of the regular season to get the Falcons back over .500 on the year.
This year will be very important to Ryan's legacy as a player in the NFL. With another solid performance and surrounded by a healthy supporting cast, I think Ryan can get the Falcons an NFC South title and another playoff berth. While BC fans know that Ryan hasn't arrived into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks, we don't feel negative about his performance to date either.
I think BC fans have been happy with Ryan's performance so far, and remain optimistic that his best days in the NFL are yet to come.
SBN ATL: What are your hopes for our local products Gary Guyton, Darryl Richard, and Kade Weston this year?
Pats Pulpit: Gary Guyton is a lock to make the Patriots 53-man roster. The Patriots recently gave Guyton a one year extension, a pay-off for his hard work with the team. While Guyton may not be able to hold down his starting inside linebacker spot (due to the outstanding play of second-round pick Brandon Spikes), he should be a valuable part of the Patriots linebacker rotation, with increased playing time in sub packages and on passing downs.
Darryl Richard and Kade Weston have a chance to make the Patriots' final roster. Both could be helped by a Patriots' defensive line that has been thinned by injuries, most recently with Ty Warren landing on the injured reserve. Both players are 5-technique defensive ends in the Patriots 3-4.
Weston, a seventh-round pick this year, could stick as a left defensive end. His tremendous size and strength, both attributes that helped him succeed at Georgia, are paying dividends so far at the professional level.
I find it interesting that some NFL teams opt to conduct several practice sessions with other NFL teams during training camp. The Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots did just that on Tuesday in Atlanta, with a session held in both the morning and afternoon.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC has notes up about both sessions. Below are a few tidbits from his notes, but read on to get the complete picture of what transpired on Tuesday.
Rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon enjoyed seeing the Patriots up close.
“To see the caliber of offense on the other side of the ball, it was a big deal to me,” Weatherspoon said. “It made me kind of raise my play up a little bit.”
It was a little different than the Jacksonville practices.
“I think Jacksonville came in and they had a different mentality,” Weatherspoon said. "They were a little bit more physical. I think that’s what you expect before the first exhibition game. Those guys were amped up and ready to go against some other people.
“The New England group, you didn’t hear anything from them. (Randy) Moss is going to say what he has to say. He got a few plays, but you didn’t hear much smack talk from them. It was just about going out there and working. That’s what New England is about.”
Great news today at the Branch:
To The Falcoholic!
The Falcons have cut kicker Steve Hauschka, leaving Matt Bryant as the only kicker on deck. Last year's Falcons slapstick kicking game reminded more than one Atlanta sports fan of Hawks forward Josh Smith's artfully ill-advised three-point attempts.
The team brought on ex-Buccanneer Bryant after Jason Elam, a career 82% field goal kicker, missed seven treys by week 11. Bryant missed his first attempt as a Bird, but finished with a 70% success rate.
The Birds imported Hauschka, late of the Ravens, for an offseason kicking duel. It seems Bryant has won that battle, though the Falcoholic is surprised at how quickly the decision was made, considering what a fiasco last year's footsmen produced.
Also cut was undrafted rookie Colin Peek, a former Crimson Tide national champion tight end.
Peek, you'll recall, was recruited by Chan Gailey to play at Georgia Tech, but fled to saner pastures when Paul Johnson took over the Tech job and offered the tight-end-shaped Peek an unsatisfactory wide receiver spot that would involve a lot of run blocking and some catching.
Peek was more comfortable at Alabama, where he excelled at doing a lot of run blocking and some catching. He preferred Bama's give-a-crap atmosphere to Tech's relatively casual fan participation, but held fond memories of his time in Atlanta as a participant on MTV's Yo Momma.
The Falcons have a pileup behind Tony Gonzalez at tight end, and Clemson rookie Michael Palmer is performing well. Peek was struggling to recover from a training camp injury, but should be able to compete for a job elsewhere. Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey, you know what to do.
The Falcons host the Patriots at the Dome Thursday night, and the two have decided to do a little pregaming beforehand, which doesn’t mean drink a lot of beer, in this case.
Joint Falcons-Patriots practices at Flowery Branch on Tuesday, August 17 from 8:30 to10:55 AM and from 3:45 to 5:35 PM are open to the public. Your correspondent hopes to attend the morning’s
festivities punt-downing drills yelled at by Stats.
Open practices on hostile (yet lush) turf seems contrary to the super-secretive Patriot Way. Coach Bill Belichick once famously referred to wide receiver Troy Brown’s leg, land-mined off in World War II, as a “lower affliction. Probable.” Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff clearly subscribe to Patriot theory, with Smitty recently refusing to detail any news of Michael Jenkins’ injury beyond acknowledging that we all saw it occur.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s participation is up in the air, as he has some sort of hand injury that Belichick is vaguely downplaying. See what I mean?
Wednesday’s practices, of course, are in full Code Belichick: interlopers, expect a mangling.
The best news of the evening: nobody got hurt. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who scored a sack early in the game (which failed to trigger a police car siren on the Dome's PA), was slow to get up after one play, but that's about it. Eleven Falcons, including four or five likely starters (Dunta Robinson, Michael Jenkins, Mike Peterson, Corey Peters, and Harry Douglas), skipped the game altogether.
The Falcons and Chiefs attempted to out-ugly each other tonight. Both teams struggled with pass protection, and all six quarterbacks had to do a little evading and bailing. Both teams missed two field goals. Neither team passed for more than five yards per attempt. In short, it was definitive preseason football.
The Chiefs piled up more first downs and yards than the Falcons, as halfbacks Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster broke off several long runs. But the difference was the Falcons' defense forcing three turnovers, led by Kroy Biermann's strip-sack of Matt Cassel and interceptions by Shann Schillinger and Chevis Jackson. The Falcons' offense simply had better starting field position to work with than the Chiefs'.
Tony Gonzalez celebrated the reunion with his former teammates by grabbing two receptions, both third-and-long conversions from Matt Ryan. Vintage 2009 Ryan's habit of locking on to Gonzalez, for better or worse, appears intact.
Rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon found his way to four tackles, playing all three downs for at least the entire first half. He read one misdirection outside run very well, shifting before the snap into the eventual running lane, but got negated by a tight end.
First-year wide receiver Kerry Meier played much less than expected, catching two passes and whiffing on one target as he fell to the ground.
Also, we finally realized Roddy White's voice sounds a lot like Mos Def's.
The Falcoholic delivers
a fistful of dollars the good, the bad, and the ugly from tonight's game:
The major additions to the offense include….
OC Charlie Weis: As the offensive coordinator, he’s going to be working heavily with Matt Cassel. He’s arguably the most important addition to the offense.
RB Thomas Jones: He’s expected to split carries with Jamaal Charles. He gives the Chiefs someone who can pound it out, which is what they lacked before.
G Ryan Lilja: He helps solidify the right guard position, which was a major issue in 2010.
WR Dexter McCluster: He hasn’t played a game yet but in training camp he’s been electric. This will be his first big test and I’m not sure how the Chiefs will use him or how the Falcons plan to cover him because he’s fast as lightning.
The major additions to the defense include…
DC Romeo Crennel: He runs the type of 3-4 defense that GM Scott Pioli has been drafting for the last decade. More than anything, he’s experienced so he brings confidence to this unit.
S Eric Berry: You heard of him? Early indications are that he’s the real deal. He was immediately plugged into the first team and he’ll start on Friday night. He has shown early that he “gets it”.
CB Javier Arenas: He’s going to be the nickelback and should see plenty of time when the Falcons go three-wide. He comes from a solid program at Alabama and, like Berry, seems to understand the defense early.
The major additions to the special teams include…
Returners Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas: We’re not quite sure what McCluster can do at returner because he didn’t do that much in college but his speed and shiftiness is too good for the Chiefs not to try at return man. We’re very interested to see what he can do. Arenas on the other hand is a highly accomplished return man and is the one more likely to be the featured returner. The Chiefs special teams got a major boost in 2010.
Players to watch include….
WR Dexter McCluster: For all the reasons listed above. He’s had a terrific camp and the Falcons are the first test to see if it can translate to a game.
WR Dwayne Bowe: He struggled in 2009 for a variety of reasons but he came into training camp with a stronger focus. It’s his fourth year so some are thinking this is when he puts it all together for a major season. A good year by him would go a long way to helping Matt Cassel.
CB Brandon Flowers: If you haven’t heard of him, you will soon. He’s on the verge of being one of the best corners in the game. If it weren’t for Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asmougha, his name would have been thrown around in Pro Bowl talks last year.
S Eric Berry: Again, for all the reasons listed above. We just want to see him prove it in a game. I’m pretty eager to see how he reacts in run support as well as protecting the middle of the field.
Question marks include….
The front seven: The Chiefs didn’t upgrade anywhere, really, on the front seven. They’ve got four first round picks in there so they are banking big time on those already in-house improving. This is a major boom or bust area for the Chiefs. If the front seven pans out, then the Chiefs are going to be flirting with .500. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably another long season.
I’ve been going with 7-9 and I’ll stick with that. The Chiefs won four games last year but made major additions to the coaching staff (Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel), given Matt Cassel more weapons (Dexter McCluster) and protection (Ryan Lilja) as well as upgrading arguably their weakest spot at safety (Eric Berry).
Arrowhead Pride has listed three Chiefs to keep an eye on, what to expect from Chiefs rookies (including Augusta native Eric Berry), and their own scouting report of the Falcons provided by The Falcoholic.
Synergy: taste it in the air.
It had previously appeared the team was intent on bringing the youngsters along at an easy pace. If this report is true, Sean Weatherspoon has impressed the coaching staff a little more than we'd realized. Most Spoon-related reports from the Branch have suggested Simba isn't quite starting-eleven ready, so this is somewhat of a surprise.
Of course, it's just a preseason game, and everyone's likely to play anyway. But still!
As Arrowhead Pride notes, there's an uncanny number of personnel connections between the Falcons' and Chiefs' rosters and front offices.
The most familiar include:
Thomas even led the team to a ray of sunshine as emergency head coach after Bobby Petrino vanished in a cloud of hog grease in late 2007. I don't know if hog grease is a real thing, but I can't imagine it wouldn't be. And, of course, former Yellow Jackets fullback Mike Cox, whose "little" brother plays a somewhat analogous position for the current Ramblin' Wreck, is now a Chief.
But that's just a sampling. Visit Arrowhead Pride to see the rest of the list -- it's pretty amazing.
Tony Gonzalez has previously made it clear he intends to retire and enter the Hall of Fame as a Chief, and he’s just here to win a ring. Chiefs fans and Falcons fans alike have no problem with this arrangement.
Friday night he faces the team he was a member of for his first 10 Pro Bowls. Unless he sticks around until 2012, when the Falcons and Chiefs will play in the regular season, this will be the only time he ever plays against Kansas City. Or, well, they could meet in a Super Bowl. I guess.
"Any time you step on the field, you’ve got to bring it," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "I know they’re not going to slow down for me just because I want to sit back and enjoy myself because I’m playing my old team. I’ve got to go out there and try to get better and try to help this team get better."
“It’s going to be weird,” Gonzalez told Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star in a phone interview.
“I’ve been getting that question this week, and not just from reporters, but from my family and friends, and yeah, nostalgia is going to pop up. The relationships, all the hard work that you put in, the bad times that you went through with the organization …
“And it’s not just about football. It’s about time spent in the city, the relationships I made with the fans. I’m sure some of them will travel, because the fans are unbelievable.”
With the team’s first live preseason action just days away, Mike Smith has released the current depth chart of the moment.
Positions of note:
Obviously this is all sort of up in the air and much of it will change in one way or another before the season opener, but it’s clear the team feels comfortable bringing its rookies along slowly.
Head over to The Falcoholic for Falcons discussion.
Men who strongly agree on hat fashion should spend as much time together as possible, as Falcons coach Mike Smith and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio seem to agree. The two squads are practicing together in Flowery Branch this week in advance of the NFL preseason’s opening weekend.
Del Rio, Smith’s boss in Jacksonville from 2002 through 2007, and Smith cooked up the co-practice idea while talking shop at the NFL Combine.
So far the teams have managed to remain relatively civil despite high temperatures, though Big Cat Country was still disappointed in the level of chippiness. As far as non-violent acts of war go, Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew apologized on Twitter for failing to accomplish any espionage during his time at the Branch.
The Falcoholic weighs in on the arrangement.
Falcons wide receiver Michael Jenkins will be out 4-6 weeks after injuring his shoulder during Friday’s scrimmage at North Gwinnett High School.
"You’re always concerned anytime one of your players goes down with an injury," head coach Mike Smith said Sunday night. "One thing I am certain of is Michael will work very hard with our athletic performance staff and training staff to get on the field as soon as possible."
Hopefully Jenkins will be healthy in time for the season-opening road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Falcons fans who were hoping to get a good look at newcomers Kerry Meier, Brandyn Harvey, and Ryan Wolfe and a fair reassessment of the returning Harry Douglas during the preseason — you’re going to get it. With six years of experience, Jenkins should be able to step into regular season mode without suffering greatly for lack of preseason snaps.
Visit The Falcoholic for discussion.
During the team’s Friday night scrimmage at Suwanee’s North Gwinnett High field, No. 2 wide receiver Michael Jenkins suffered some sort of arm injury while hitting the deck for a deep-ish pass.
Head coach Mike Smith is being characteristically secretive about the malady, saying, “I don’t know the extent of it,” and, “we’re encouraged by what we saw on the sidelines.”
It was unclear whether the pass was slightly underthrown or Jenkins overran his route. The receiver made a good effort to come back to the ball, and was able to make contact with it briefly before hitting the ground hard. He stood up slowly, with his left arm dangling, and appeared to be concerned about either his wrist or his shoulder. I realize those are pretty much the exact opposites of possible arm injury locations, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t his elbow.
Jenkins has become unpopular after developing a reputation as a totally average NFL wide receiver who gets the dropsies at the most inopportune moments. The pass was the second of the evening Jenkins was unable to haul in despite getting both hands on the ball. Of course, wrist/shoulder injuries tend to hamper one’s hands.
Fifth-round wide receiver Kerry Meier has had a busy week:
The fifth-round pick from Kansas is working at both outside positions and in the slot.
Wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie doesn’t think he is overloading him because Meier was a quarterback in college before moving to receiver.
Meier’s larger frame and alleged lack of a fifth gear make him an interesting complement to the flashy Harry Douglas, the team’s most traditional slot receiver. Meier weighs 40 pounds more than Douglas, for one thing.
Falcons brass have made versatility a high priority for several members of its newest crop. First-rounder Sean Weatherspoon has switched between weakside and strongside linebacker spots since minicamp. Fifth-round cornerback Dominique Franks has taken a crack at punt returns, which may or may not really count.
It remains to be seen whether fourth-round center Joe Hawley, last seen cultivating an imperial strut in the face of samurai landscaping, will see any time at quarterback.
Defensive tackle Peria Jerry and wide receiver Harry Douglas, who combined for only 71 healthy snaps last season, are sort of back in business.
Jay Adams writes:
Harry Douglas and Peria Jerry returned to full-team drills, allowing them to continue to ease back into game-playing shape. Cleared medically to practice before camp began, the two 2009-injured players have been present on the practice field, but only participated in position drills.
Before getting too excited about the return of two key players for the Falcons, Head Coach Mike Smith said he needed to wait and see how they respond to practice. They’re on schedule with the return of Douglas and Jerry, but they want to see their reaction to the workload off the field and ensure there are no residual effects to practicing.
At minicamp, the two did leisurely lunges in the distance while the rest of the team drilled and scrimmaged, so this is pretty good news. The offense missed Douglas’ explosiveness last season, and second-year Jerry has a lot to prove this season.
The Falcoholic is likely to host a discussion soon.
The Atlanta Falcons opened training camp on Friday, and so far all is well. Reports are almost unanimous in praising the defense's performance, specifically the pass coverage of cornerbacks Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, Christopher Owens, and rookie Dominique Franks. Linebacker Curtis Lofton has mentioned the D having a chip on its shoulder after being called the team's Achilles heel all offseason, and wide receiver Roddy White appreciates the intensified competition.
Wide receiver Kerry Meier and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon have been the other rookies to earn widespread kudos, though Spoon continues to inspire loud cusses by loud cuss defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder, who loudly cusses because he cares.
Despite triple-digit heat and Georgia humidity, the team has so far suffered only a handful of minor injuries -- Robinson tweaked a hamstring, one-time Yellow Jacket tight end Colin Peek aggravated his knee, and beloved elder wide receiver Brian Finneran has Old Man Back.
Another great resource has been the the Twitter hashtag #aftc2010, populated by tweets of on-site Falcons personnel like Daniel Cox, Jay Adams, and Nikki Noto. The team has invested impressively in social media, and having several layers of coverage for fans who can't attend (not to mention letting fans attend in the first place) is something to admire. The new atlantafalcons.com is being constantly updated as well.
Mike Smith promises this week will be the hardest of the year, as it's time to put on the pads and start popping.
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