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What To Watch For: Titans vs. Falcons

The Falcons enter tonight’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans following a blowout loss to Houston in which Atlanta was outplayed in nearly every phase of the game. The Falcons will be looking to drastically improve across the board as they continue to prepare for the fast-approaching regular season opener. Atlanta’s starters should see plenty of action in this game, as the third preseason contest is typically a dress rehearsal for the games that count. Here are some of the most important things to watch as the Falcons battle the Titans.

New Beginnings, Second Chances

All eyes will be on the Falcons’ two new starting offensive tackles: Jake Matthews and Lamar Holmes. Matthews’ future begins now as he slides over to left tackle following the season-ending knee injury of incumbent starter Sam Baker. Lamar Holmes makes his return to the starting offensive line after an abysmal 2013 display and will try to build upon his promising preseason. The young duo should see plenty of snaps against the Titans’ stout defensive line, a group featuring studs such as Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, and Kamerion Wimbley. How Matthews and Holmes fare could be indicative of their success for the upcoming season.

The Start of Something Great?

The Falcons’ starters will likely see their most extensive playing time of the preseason on Saturday night, and it should be Atlanta’s best chance to rid themselves of the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth after an ugly loss to the Texans. The offense will look to establish a rhythm and put points on the board with what is likely to be a balanced attack, while the defense could show some of the complexity that’s been long awaited for by fans, but without giving too much away. The Falcons could suppress concerns about the lack of a pass rush with a solid showing against a talented Titans’ offensive line.

Cuts Are Coming

The Falcons will trim their roster to 75 players on August 26th, meaning this game could be the last opportunity for certain players on the bubble to impress the coaching staff. After the starters exit, fringe players will be giving everything they’ve got to make it past the first wave of cuts. It’s a time that could potentially make or break careers for players like Kimario McFadden, Jerome Smith, Geraldo Boldewijn, and Jeff Mathews.

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Game Notebook: Falcons vs. Texans Recap

The Falcons’ second preseason game of the year was an utter disaster: a 32-7 loss to the Houston Texans, a team that won just two games last season. This loss looks even worse when considering the Falcons were crushed by a team coming off a 32-0 defeat just last week.

Atlanta was outplayed in every phase of the game and looked nothing like the team we saw just a week before against Miami. Thankfully, this loss doesn’t count, and it’s important to try and keep things in perspective when looking back on this game. Let’s take a look at what stood out the most in Atlanta’s defeat.

Continue reading here. 

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Malliciah Goodman Gunning for Snaps, Tyson Jackson’s Job

Rewind back to last year, when Malliciah Goodman was a wide-eyed rookie just looking to make a good first impression on his coaches. The former Clemson Tiger brought his freakishly long arms and gargantuan hands to Atlanta when the Falcons selected him with one of their fourth-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Goodman’s rookie season was expectedly filled with highs and lows, but there were moments when he flashed run-stopping brilliance, making both coaches and fans salivate over his potential.

Fast forward to the present day, and Goodman has progressed way beyond just impressing his coaches — he’s making a bona fide case for first-team snaps. Per AtlantaFalcons.com, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan had this to say about the second-year stud: “Malliciah has really made a lot of progress,” Nolan said. “He’s worth mentioning. He’s a guy that you need to watch, because he’s really doing a good job. He’s up to almost 290 (pounds) and you can see him out there, he’s got long arms, he’s thick, he’s girthy, he’s not like a spindly tall guy; he’s doing a really good job.”

Goodman’s long offseason of hard work seems to be paying off early for the Falcons in 2014, as he’s been very impressive in two preseason games thus far. But Goodman is currently playing second fiddle to high-priced free agent acquisition Tyson Jackson, a player Goodman has outperformed up to this point. This begs a legitimate question: does Goodman deserve to start over Jackson? Let’s objectively examine both players and determine who would be the better option for the Falcons.

Player A 2014 Statistics: 34 total snaps, 1 total tackle, 0 combined QB hits, hurries, and pressures, 0 run stops, 1 penalty. PFF overall score: -1.8, -0.7 run defense, -0.2 pass rush.

Player B 2014 Statistics: 39 total snaps, 1 combined tackle, 4 combined QB hits, hurries, and pressures, 0 run stops, 0 penalties. PFF overall score: +2.3, +1.0 run defense, +1.2 pass rush.

It may come as a surprise to some that Player B is Goodman, a player making a measly $594k this season compared to Jackson’s $3.1 million. Jackson was given a lucrative deal to provide Atlanta with rock-solid run defense, but he hasn’t shown much in two preseason games to appear truly deserving of his high-dollar contract. Additionally, everyone knows Jackson can’t rush the passer with only nine sacks in five years, so exactly what good is he doing for the Falcons’ defense? If there is one thing Jackson does provide for the Falcons that Goodman doesn’t, it’s a proven track record. As recently as last year, Jackson was one of the better run-stuffers in the league. Unfortunately, last year’s performances don’t help this year’s team.

Goodman, on the other hand, brings youth, affordability, versatility, and a copious amount of potential to the Falcons’ defense, not to mention he’s outproducing Jackson in every way right now. Goodman displayed glimpses last season that he could develop into the same caliber of run-stuffer that Jackson has been, but additionally that he could provide a pass-rush for a team severely lacking it. Put simply, the arrow is pointing way up for Goodman.

The Falcons had a propensity to stick with players that were either highly paid or drafted highly, even if they clearly weren’t performing up to par. 2013 saw a change in that, likely due to a lost season, but the staff nevertheless benched underperforming starters like Akeem Dent and Osi Umenyiora for youngsters Paul Worrilow and Jonathan Massaquoi, subsequently reaping the benefits.

It’d be a tough pill to swallow for Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith to admit that Jackson was a poor signing by starting Goodman, but it could be in the best interest for the franchise longterm. It’s possible that the best move for the Falcons going forward would be to get Goodman involved as much as possible to speed up his development, while keeping Jackson in the mix on obvious run downs to play to his strengths and attempt to get the most out of his contract.

What do you think? Has Goodman earned the majority of snaps, or is it too soon to relegate Jackson to backup duty?

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Think You Know the Falcons? Test Your Knowledge Here!

1) In what year was the Falcons inaugural season?

A) 1967

B) 1969

C) 1966

D) 1776

 

2)   Who was the first player ever drafted by the Falcons?

A) Tommy Nobis

B) Jeff Van Note

C) Claude Humphrey

D) Bobby Boucher

 

3)  Who is the all-time leading point scorer in Falcons’ history?

A) Matt Ryan

B) Morten Andersen

C) Mick Luckhurst

D) Alge Crumpler

 

4)  Who owns the Falcons’ record for most rushing yards in a game?

A) Gerald Riggs

B) Jamal Anderson

C) Michael Turner

D) Fred McCrary

 

5) Who owns the Falcons’ record for most career interceptions?

A) Rolland Lawrence

B) Scott Case

C) Deion Sanders

D) Jamaal Fudge

 

6) As of the 2013 season, how many division titles have the Falcons won?

A) 6

B) 5

C) 3

D) None

 

7) Who owns the Falcons’ record for most career passing yards?

A) Steve Bartkowski

B) Chris Chandler

C) Matt Ryan

D) Kurt Kittner

 

8) Who is the older brother of Desmond Trufant and former Seattle Seahawk?

A) Michael Trufant

B) Martin Trufant

C) Marcus Trufant

D) Methuselah Trufant

 

9) Who owns the Falcons’ record for most career sacks?

A) Claude Humphrey

B) John Abraham

C) Chuck Smith

D) Grady Jackson

 

10) Who owns the record for most career receptions in Falcons’ history?

A)  Terance Mathis

B)  Roddy White

C)  Billy “White Shoes” Johnson

D)  Patches O’Houlihan

 

Answers:

1) C

2) A

3) B

4) C

5) A

6) B

7) C

8) C

9) A

10) B

How did you do? Let me know in the comments!

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An Extensive Recap of Hard Knocks: Episode 2

Life is good for rookie fullback Roosevelt Nix-Jones. He’s impressing coaches by showing good hands and strength, even cracking one of the sleds with a powerful hit. But life in the NFL can change in the blink of an eye, particularly for an undrafted rookie, and Nix-Jones found that out rather unexpectedly. After injuries to safeties Dwight Lowery and Dez Southward, the team was forced to bring in safety Tyrell Johnson, and Nix-Jones was consequently waived to open a roster spot. Nix-Jones was called to head coach Mike Smith’s office, where viewers were able to witness one of the most difficult parts of pro football take place. “This is not the fun part”, Smith said as he severed ties. Nix-Jones said that’d he keep working out and wait for a call. “Just roll with the punches”, he said. He was then escorted off the premises. Word about Nix-Jones’ departure spread quickly as teammates could be seen discussing in disbelief about losing a friend to the brutal business that is the NFL. “Sh— just got real for ya’ll, to see the first to go”, running back Jacquizz Rodgers said to a few younger players.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff has come a long way since his first job in the NFL: a groundskeeper. Mountain biking in Aspen, Colorado with Lance Armstrong, Dimitroff reflects on spending summers with his dad at Miami of Ohio, where he first discovered his passion for scouting players. Back in Atlanta, Dimitroff chats with assistant GM Scott Pioli about finding solace on the field and while watching tape. Life can be hectic, but on the football field is where Dimitroff feels the most at ease.

Arms spread out wide, offensive line coach Mike Tice asks Roddy White, “Who can you block like this?” “Nobody”, says White, and the two share a good laugh. In the film room, Tice catches rookie center James Stone with his arms out wide during a scrimmage, and Tice makes him pay for it. “I believe I can flyyy”, sings Stone in front of his fellow lineman. Everyone is cracking up, and they eventually join Stone in the singing.

Continue reading here.

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HBO’s “Meet the Rookies” & “Friends and Rivals” Short Films Recap

“Meet the Rookies”

Brian Cox is in awe of Jake Matthews. “I think Jake is one of the best technicians out there”, Cox says in amazement. “He’s the guy I noticed most. He’s bred to be that (an offensive tackle).” Mike Tice is thoroughly impressed, too. “He’s a man of few words. He goes out and takes care of business. He’s very mature for his age.” Matthews is just taking everything in one day at a time. “I’m realizing that it’s a job now; it’s football everyday. I’m enjoying it, having a good time, and learning a lot.” He’s looked awfully good in the process, as well.

Tyler Starr is checking into his dorm, enjoying the amenities the NFL lifestyle has to offer. He hopes for good roommates, but doesn’t forget about the loved ones he left back home: his family. Starr unpacks his belongings, and among them is a small photo album made for him by his fiancée. Starr slowly flips through each picture, reminiscing on time well spent with his son and soon-to-be wife. The photo album will “keep the motivation close”, says Starr.

Jacques Smith is fighting for his coaches’ attention, among other things, and Outside Linebackers Coach Mark Collins has taken notice. “You want a bunch of tough, competitive guys that want to mix it up on a daily basis. He’s a tough guy that doesn’t back down from anybody.” Smith claims to have one quality that was missing from the Falcons last season. “I’m very, very, very, very, very physical.” Smith is then shown beating Terren Jones with a vicious rip move. On not being drafted, Smith was disappointed, but grateful to be a Falcon. “You wait for your reward after working so hard for so many years, and you don’t get your name called. It’s like, where does reality set me now? I’m glad I’m here.”

Ricardo Allen had a hard time finding his dorm room. “They got me back here in the woods”, he laughed. On the field, Allen is joking with teammates about a “misprint” on his player profile that lists him at 5’9’’; Allen cheekily thinks he’s closer to 6-foot-2. Allen checks with Pat Angerer to get his opinion on the subject, and Angerer agrees. “You’re a good teammate!” chuckles Allen. Exhaustion from a brutal training camp evidently hit Allen pretty hard. “I couldn’t even talk to my girl. I just texted her ‘goodnight baby, too tired.’ ”

Devonta Freeman apparently has a catchword that he uses for everything he likes: “wavy.” If he thinks something is cool or smooth, it’s wavy. Steven Jackson seems to think the rookie is making waves in his first training camp. “He’s very explosive. He gets to his top gear pretty fast.”

“Friends and Rivals”

Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Julio Jones are inseparable off of the football field. “We’re like family”, said an appreciative White. Douglas calls White the big brother he’s always wanted. “Roddy’s been on my side 100 percent”, he proclaims. But don’t call Douglas the little brother. “I’m the middle child. Julio’s the little brother”, he declares. “They always gang up on the middle child.” Wide Receivers Coach Terry Robiskie gave his opinion, and he may know the triumvirate better than anyone does. Robiskie likened Douglas to a kid that runs and hides after doing something bad, White to a “wild guy” that’s gone off the deep end, and Jones to someone who tries to fit in but is always looking over his shoulder as if his mother were watching. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter may have put it best when he said, “The three stooges come to mind. They’re funny and they’re smart.” Jones further illustrated the group’s tight bond. “We’re not gonna let each other down. If Matt (Ryan) throws one of those guys the ball and I’m open, I’m happy with that decision because I know those guys are gonna make that play.”

William Moore and Roddy White have a fierce, but friendly rivalry. Moore claims White always has excuses, and that he likes to amp White up a little bit. Coach Robiskie claims that Moore and White both talk trash, though they rarely compete against each other. Yet when they do, they both “shut up and be quiet”, snickered Robiskie. When Head Coach Mike Smith asked White to break the team down after practice, White conceded to Moore, and the way their quirky friendship works became more evident.

“Camp time sleepover!” shouted an enthusiastic Gabe Carimi. Carimi and Peter Konz were roommates for a few years at the University of Wisconsin, so it’s no surprise to see the two rooming together once again, this time as Falcons. “We’re like bears. We’re a good family together”, said Carimi. Carimi called Konz during free agency and said that he had interest from some teams. Konz quipped, “There’s only one team to look at.” Carimi then explained how the two compete for everything. “We compete over who gets to put the weights away, because we want to get that extra work”, said Carimi with a smirk. But the pair’s rivalry is more like a brotherhood than anything. “When it comes to family like Gabe, I do care, and we won’t let each other take shortcuts”, stated Konz. Konz and his wife had a child just four days before camp started, and he was visibly thrilled to see them both after a sweltering practice. Carimi and Konz both have infant children to care for, and that bond has brought the two closer. “We’re on the same page in our lives”, Konz said.

It’s not too difficult to guess Jacques Smith’s favorite drill: that’s right, the Oklahoma drill. “Whoever want it!” shouted Smith as he challenged anyone to face him in the mano-a-mano test of will. Ryan Schraeder stepped up to the plate, much to the delight of coaches and teammates. Schraeder proceeded to plow through Smith and was showered in praise by Mike Tice and his fellow offensive linemen. Smith may have lost that particular battle, but he had good things to say afterward. “I just wanted to go out there and look for another competition. We have a very talented offensive line. (Schraeder)’s a tough guy.” Smith reiterated how physical and tough of a player he believes himself to be. “If I get into an altercation with someone, it’s not going to end well.” 

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The Falcons’ Best and Worst Three PFF Performances: Preseason Week 1

Pro Football Focus is an advanced football analytics website that is well respected by fans and even used by some NFL teams to assist in their assessment of players. That said, it isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to analyzing player performances; it’s best used as a guide to help a person come to a clearer conclusion of their own assessment.

PFF recently released their individual performance grades for the Atlanta Falcons vs. the Miami Dolphins. Let’s take a look and see who graded out as the best and worst players for the Falcons on Friday night.

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