Join Date: Feb 2007
Strengths and Weaknesses
Just a couple of thoughts on the first seven games of the season.
Farther along than I could have hoped for.
Matt Ryan would start on 2/3 of the NFL's teams as a rookie. Makes a couple of bad throws, but when we are down I still feel that we can and will win the game. Can make all of the throws. The next great NFL quarterback. He alone, IMO, assures the Falcons a bright future.
Roddy White is a top five receiver in the league. He has no number two receiver to get attention from opposing secondaries, and gets open on anybody. Charles Woodson and Asante Samuels, two of the top cornerbacks in the league, have both witnessed it. Woodson may be the top cornerback this year, Asante is top ten. Roddy abused them both. He has it all. He gets lazy and drops some balls, but he is so gifted physically and athletically. He will get better as Matt Ryan gets better.
Harry Douglas has been about what I expected, but has gotten down the field a bit better than I originally anticipated. He will be a good target as a slot receiver for years.
Michael Jenkins has been Michael Jenkins. That's not a bad thing, but he shouldn't be a number two receiver. He would be a fine number three. He makes the catches he is supposed to make, and is a good blocker and special teams player. But he doesn't make a ton of huge plays.
Laurent Robinson hasn't done anything. Is he still injured? I thought he would have an opportunity to prove himself as a valid number two receiver this year, but that opportunity is about to pass him up. Rumors are that the organization thinks he is soft and does not play through pain. We will likely look for a target in the offseason to compliment Roddy White.
Brian Finneran, like I said before the season, should not be on an NFL roster. He has torn his ACL twice, I'm not sure but it may have been on the same leg. He has always been slow, this made it worse. To my suprise, he has gotten open at times. And to my mild suprise he has dropped several balls. I think he dropped two balls today, and he dropped at least one in the Tampa game. He is our fourth receiver, and that's not a good thing. Like I've been saying, we need a new target.
Justin Peele and Ben Hartsock have been what I expected. They both are good blockers and have been a big part of the running game and in pass protection. They aren't huge downfield threats, but I haven't seen a drop out of them. THey aren't a strength, but for what this offense asks for out of them they are not a weakness either.
Outside of Norwood, the backs have been seldom used as receivers. Norwood is a good target and I like how we use him in the passing game. Screens, dump offs, down the field; anything to get him the ball in space. Mughelli has a few receptions, and Snelling comes into the game on passing downs at times. They do their jobs.
The offensive line, for the most part, has been great in pass protection. Tampa Bay and Philladelphia both brought pressure successfully, but with less than ten sacks allowed (it may be ten, but I believe it is nine) in seven games, it is hard to complain.
About what I expected coming into the year.
Like I expected coming into the year, Norwood and Turner is a lethal combination of speed and power, respectively (Norwood is the speed to compliment Turner's power). I figured the Falcons would run on lesser defensive lines and struggle against top defensive lines.
Norwood and Turner have went as the offensive line has went. The line beat up Detroit and Kansas City, and opened some holes against Green Bay. But they struggled against the likes of Chicago, Carolina, Tampa, and Philadelphia. The effort and meaness is there on the offensive line. The talent? Not quite.
Has performed better than I would have expected.
It is true that teams have racked up some passing yards against the Falcons. They give up too many big plays and struggle with bigger receivers. But they have had success with receivers they can be physical with, and haven't been completely dominated in any game. The main issue in my opinion are the ball skills present in this group.
Chris Houston has played physical and stuck to his receiver. Probably the best corner of the bunch. Had the interception returned less than 20 yards for a touchdown against Kansas City, but his ball skills still need work. If he intercepts the slant route he jumped today, his hands seemed to get onto the ball, he probably returns it for a touchdown. He may be too physical and aggressive, I'm sure it will cause some penalties on him over his career. Could be the next Al Harris, who is a bit overrated but is still an above average cornerback. But Houston as a whole has improved from a horrible starter to at least an average one from year one to year two.
Brent Grimes is like Houston in that he does stick to his receiver, players don't usually get wide open on him. The issue is that he is too small to play with the larger receivers, who can usually out physical him for the ball. I'm not sure if he did not start today because of injury (he was in on special teams) or because of performance, but while he isn't an above average cornerback he does have a place in the NFL as a nickel or dime back and special teams player.
Chevis Jackson has been decent when he has played. He has given up some plays in man coverage, but he seems like he will have a bright future. Very nice fit as a nickel back.
Domonique Foxworth was seemingly a disappointment after people thought we stole him from the Broncos for a seventh round pick. He didn't see much playing time at all, until this week when he started the game. Again, he is a smaller corner who doesn't do many things special. But he may be a decent stop gap for us for the remainder of the year until we aquire a cornerback in the offseason via draft, free agency, or trade. I doubt we re-sign him.
Lawyer Milloy seems to get better with age. After being burnt continuously in coverage in 2006, his first year with the team, he has been solid in the year and a half since. Has not been burnt in coverage often, and has of course been a good run stopped from his strong safety position. He cost the Falcons a few minutes and a third down stop today with a late hit, but he generally is a smart player and field general for the defense. May not be with the Falcons next year, but has been a good player for the most part for them.
Erik Coleman has been on the field, but I haven't heard his name much. I believe he is generally in deep coverage, which is why he is usually the guy breaking up, or giving up, the deep ball and making tackles fifteen yards down the field. Not a top player, but he hasn't been a weakness. Not a priority to replace.
Thomas DeCoud played when Milloy went out, that is the only time I can recall. I don't remember him giving up a big play when he was in, which is good. Has a lot of physical ability and is a good special teams player. Will probably compete for a starting position next year.
The linebackers have been in coverage often, today was the first day I recall blitzing them often.
Boley hasn't been as much of a force with the pass rush, but I believe that is because he has not been asked to blitz as often. He also went from nearly 240 pounds to about 225 pounds, his college playing weight. I would assume that was a move by the coaching staff so that Boley could be more fluid in coverage. Has been solid but not spectacular like last year. Definitely still our top linebacker on the roster. Is a top strongside linebacker in the National Football League.
Brooking has lost another step. At one point coverage and sideline to sideline speed were two of his biggest strengths, now they are big weaknesses and have been for the past two, maybe three, years. He is still a decent blitzer, and I would assume a good leader. He is also the communicator with the defensive coordinator, he carries the radio in his helmet. But I think he is let go either this offseason or next. Is a declining weakside linebacker in the National Football League, where is speed and roaming ability is not a factor like it once was.
Lofton has been about what I expected. He has racked up some tackles, but hasn't made many plays. We have given up a lot of plays by overpursuing, and I would guess he is a part of that. Maybe even a slight disappointment, but that may be because I was expecting about 120 tackles. Struggles in coverage from what I have seen. Will be a very good middle linebacker for years for the Falcons none the less.
The pass rush has been decent and improved in recent weeks.
Abraham has definitely been a force, and although he hasn't got sacks in the past few weeks he has still impressed and got into the quarterbacks face often. Powerful, athletic, gifted. He does lack discipline at times, as he overpursues and gives up some plays on misdirection runs. But overall probably our defensive most valuable player (DMVP) to this point.
Jamaal Anderson started this season like he had not improved at all, but since the Packers game has shown marked improvement. He got pressure in that game and then registered a sack in the Chicago game and once again today against Philadelphia on Donovan McNabb. His large frame is also huge against the run, especially when compared to the undersized Kroy Biermann. He has improved, not yet to the level of an eighth overall first round draft pick, but he has shown signs of life.
Chauncey Davis has long been one of my favorite players. Not due to him being a top player on the team, or him having a ton of talent. But due to him being a team player, a solid all around player. He was a linebacker at one point in college and I believe he came into the league at just 6'2" and over 250. He is now 270 if I recall correctly. He stops the run, does not overpursue, and can get to the quarterback when he is in position to. Our coaches and management liked him out of college, and he had to come in his rookie season and get significant snaps due to injuries to Brady Smith and Patrick Kerney (I can't remember exactly if he got injured that year, 2005). Since then he has only gotten better. A valuable player to have on the team due to his ability to play the run or the pass, and also his ability to play both right and left defensive end.
Kroy Biermann was drafted as a situational pass rusher, and in preseason he earned playingtime in that role. He has received significant snaps this year, mostly on passing downs. He is very strong, but his size is a problem and today alone he was washed down several times on running plays. Hopefully our NFL strength and conditioning program can get some bulk on him, remember he came from Montana, which I believe is a Division 1-aa school. It may be a division 2 school.
Jonathan Babineaux has been a good player since he became a Falcon when he was drafted in the second round in 2005. He played a ton of snaps as a rookie, when he had to start out of position at defensive end. He struggled, but him simply being a team player and starting at a defensive end position as a rookie was impressive. Last year he really came alive when he stepped in for an often injured Rod Coleman. He got pressure often, although not many sacks, penetrated on run plays, and also showed great backside pursuit. He hasn't been quite the playmakier this year, but he is still a servicable starting under tackle in this league.
Grady Jackson has been Grady Jackson. When he is in teams have trouble running on us. He demands double teams and penetrates due to his shear size. Unfortunately he is said to be on a list of players who have taken water pills, a banned substance that helps lose weight but also may mask steroid use. I believe Grady was using them for weight control, but he is almost surely going to be suspended for at least four games for the use of a NFL banned substance.
I'm not sure who Jason Jefferson is or when we signed him, but he made some plays against the run today. Definitely a player to watch once Grady is suspended.
Kindal Moorehead is kind of like an older Jonathan Babineaux, although not as athletically gifted. He gets push in the pocket often, and gets some hits on the quarterback. Not a bad player.
Like I said under the player profiles, our linebackers and defensive lineman overpursue too often. They stop direct handoffs, but struggle with misdirections and cutbacks. A run stopper needs to be aquired for when Grady Jackson leaves the team due to retiring or leaving via free agency. He is too big of a boon to not have a replacement for him once he leaves. Like I typed, watch Jason Jefferson. He played well today.
They have been great this year.
Great unit. May have given up negative amount of return yards on the year after DeSean Jackson ran fifteen to twenty yards backwards today. Tons of punts inside the 20, and Koenen can boom it 50-65 yards when needed.
Obviously the biggest special teams weakness. Adam Jennings is not a playmaker, and can't even field the ball correctly. I believe he has muffed or fumbled a punt this year prior to today, and I don't feel comfortable for when the ball is in his hands. I won't, however, place the blame on him for losing the game. He did not touch the ball. Often return men change their minds and decide not to field the ball at the last second. That was not on him. Also, I haven't seen a ton of blocking for Jennings on returns this year or last.John Abraham also blocked a punt against the Panthers when their punter bobbled it.
Good unit. I don't recall any huge returns against this unit on the year.
Not spectacular, but definitely servicable. Have had a few big kickoff returns, although no touchdowns. Norwood is a playmaker, blocking seems fine to me.
Mike Smith has been great. A players coach most of the time, but when the time is right he gets fired up. Like today with the bad officiating call on the supposedly muffed punt. I was mad, I can't imagine how mad he was. A good coach.
Mike Mularkey I have been a big supporter of. But he gets way, way too pretty with his playcalling. Against I want to say Tampa we had the ball on like the four yard line on first down, and then we tried QB draws and passes, etc.. Then today we had the ball, first and goal on the two. A yard on first down. And then, with a 245 pound RB in the backfield, they pass the ball with a rookie quarterback? An excellent rookie quarterback, but still a rookie quarterback. Even if the running game isn't going great, you give the ball to your big, fast, playmaking tailback in those situations. Also, he doesn't run the ball enough with Norwood. He has however, in my opinion, been a huge part of our success offensively and Matt Ryan's progression as a quarterback. Shout out to Bill Musgrave as well for Matt Ryan adjusting to the pro game so quickly.
Brian Van Gorder was known to be an aggressive coach when we brought him in last year as the linebackers coach, and I expected an aggressive, attacking style when he became our defensive coordinator. He was aggressive today, but for the most part has went with Mike Smith's philopsophy of letting the front four rush the passer. The defense isn't high on talent, especially in the secondary, so I think he has done a nice job considering the circumstances.
5 Players Who Should See the Field Less
1. PR Adam Jennings- Not a playmaker, and has lost the ball at times.
2. WR Brian Finneran- Old, slow, and has bad hands.
3. C Todd McClure- Undersized and a weakness run blocking.
4. WLB Keith Brooking- Slowing down and ineffective in coverage.
5. DE Kroy Biermann- Undersized and shoved around in the run game.
5 Players Who Should See the Field More
1. RB Jerious Norwood- Huge playmaker. Needs to get more carries. Should also get consideration for punt returner.
2. C Alex Stepanovich- It seems to me the offensive line was better when McClure was out and Stepanovich was in.
3. DT Jason Jefferson- Played well today, and Grady might be suspended for four games. Good opportunity to see what he has to offer as a player.
4. WLB Stephen Nicholas- More athletic than Brooking, flies to the ball. Collected quite a few interceptions in college for a weakside linebacker.
5. RB Jason Snelling- Seems to do everything asked of him. Blocks well, catches well, and run well for his size. I like to see him on the field on third down.
That was a long post. Basically my thoughts on the team nearly half way through the season.
ACC Champions 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010
Next Up: 2012