Ryan rated as NFL’s top under-30 franchise player

Falcons QB Matt Ryan putting the silver sharpie to some helmets. He was helping out Kendyl Moss, the team's Director of Community Relations, who must have items for donation and charitable requests.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan putting the silver sharpie to some helmets. He was helping out Kendyl Moss, the team's Director of Community Relations.

FLOWERY BRANCH – Blog-cation was awesome.

Found that Palm tree to relax under. Plenty of frothy beverages. Watched some old episodes of Rockford Files. What else can you ask for.

Hit the OTA scene and with just one more open session, the Falcons appear to be ahead of schedule compared to last year. But that was to be expected now that the coaching staff has a year under its belt.

Would not worry too much about all of the dust-ups at Wednesday’s session. They were mostly low-level rugby scrums. When you get those helmet-swinging fights, those are the ones to be concerned about. Helmet-swinging shows a clear intent to do bodily harm to a teammate.

There’s not need to worry about the pushing and shoving deals with a little jabbering

“I like the way they are working,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It’s really difficult to see where we are because we are not really playing the game off football. We are in helmets and shorts and it’s really non-contact work.”

An emphasis has been placed on improving the passing attack during the OTA sessions.

“I think we’ll be ahead of where we need to be in the passing game in terms of what we’ve installed,” Smith

Peria Jerry and Curtis Lofton signing items for the Falcons' Community Relations Department.

Peria Jerry and Curtis Lofton signing items for the Falcons.

said. “In the running game, we have to get out and work in pads and that will come here in August.”

RYAN LAUDED: Fox named Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, 24, the NFL’s top franchise player under 30.

TWO-MAN WEDGE: One of the major offseason rule changes involves the formation of two-man wedges on kickoff returns. The idea is to keep players from getting injured while trying to bust up three- and four-man wedges.

Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong is adjusting to the new rule.

“With a two-man wedge you are going to be little more simple with your game plan toward wedges,” Armstrong said. “You won’t have to adjust as much for kickoff coverage. Kickoff return-wise you’ve got to change a little bit.”

The All-Pro Diet.

Tony Gonzalez' new book: The All-Pro Diet.

GONZALEZ BOOK: An advanced copy of Tony Gonzalez‘ book arrived in the office recently. It’s entitled, “The All-Pro Diet: Lose fat, build muscle and live like a champion.”

Gonzalez authors the book with Mitzi Dulan, RD (Registered Dietitian). Will get back to you all with a review later, but on the flip through saw some interesting recipes. One was for Fish Tacos and another for a Black Bean Burger.

Also, part of the All-Pro workout includes jumping rope 600 to 1,000 jumps total, 100 jumps per set, 30 seconds of rest between sets. This helps to develop quick feet.

SACKMASTER NEEDS HELP: The Falcons are looking for some help in the pass rushing department for John Abraham, who had a franchise-record 16.5 sacks last season. The battle for left end with Jamaal Anderson, Kroy Biermann and Chauncey Davis will interesting to watch in training camp.

Anderson, the No. 8 pick in 2007 draft, has two sacks in 31 starts. Biermann got two sacks in a reserve role last season as a rookie. Davis had a career-high four sacks last season, but has just eight overall in four seasons.

“It would be nice to get another guy to get into the six, seven sack range,” Smith said. “If we get two of those guys (in the six, seven sack range) I think we’ll be very efficient rushing the passer.”

OLINE LOOKING FOR DEPTH: Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau is looking to create some depth along the line.

“We are still in underwear, so we can’t hit anybody,” Boudreau said. “Compared to last year, we are ahead of the process in terms of communication and being able to work together as a unit. There is more chemistry. Even with the young guys, they are ahead of schedule. Last year we were trying to teach them all of the things and we were just trying to break the huddle at the same time.”

CHEERLEADER CORNER . . .

A-TOWN DANCER TRYOUTS: Our good buddy Jason “Jake” McDonald of I-Light Media at www.ilightmediaws.com was kind enough to send along two very nice slide shows from the A-Town Dancer tryouts. We know they work for the Hawks, but we can scout for the Falcons cheer squad here.

Looks like our good friend Sam Crenshaw of Channel 11 had a difficult time serving as one of the judges.

Check out the first cuts of the A-Town Dance Team Auditions
and some action from Day 2 of the tryouts.

IN THE COMMUNITY . . .

DAVIS TAKES ON BULLYING: Defensive End Chauncey Davis, DeKalb Juvenile Court Judge Desiree Peagler,

Chauncey Davis

Chauncey Davis

DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May spoke to nearly 100 youth at the Browns Mill Road Recreation Center on June 5 as part of a special anti-bullying campaign.

“Something has to be done to combat this reckless behavior of bullying and to help build the self-esteem of both the person being bullied and the bully,” said Davis, who started the Chauncey Davis Foundation to address health and wellness related issues in the community. “As adults, if we don’t intervene now, we will hear more and more reports of suicides, gun violence, depression, drug/alcohol abuse, higher dropout rates and more with our young people.”

ROBISKIE, MILES TO HELP OUT YOUTH: Falcons wide receiver coach Terry Robiskie and inebacker Edmond Miles will be joined by four Falcons cheerleaders and PGA Tour pros DeWitt Weaver and James Mason at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw for the inaugural Tee Off For Tykes charity golf tournament Friday and Saturday to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The public is invited to attend the event and meet the Falcons and PGA pros. Pinetree Country Club is located on McCollum Parkway in Kennesaw.

FUNDS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: At the annual Verizon Wireless golf tournament with the Atlanta Falcons recently, attendees raised $24,670 for Partnership Against Domestic Violence.

Steve Bartkowski

Steve Bartkowski

This was the fifth annual Verizon Wireless Network of Champions Gold Tournament, which was held at The River Club Golf Course in Suwanee. At this annual celebrity event, attendees were able to meet current players including Matt Ryan, Brian Finneran and Michael Turner, former players Steve Bartkowski and

Hall of Famer Emmit Thomas as well as the Falcons leadership including head coach Mike Smith, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and president Rich McKay.

So are you worried about the OTA fights? Do you believe Ryan is the top franchise player under 30 in the NFL? Will Jamaal Anderson turn into a double-digit sack guy in year three? Is the Hawks cheer squad going to step up and help them get deeper in the playoffs? Happy to see Davis tackling a timely issue of substance in the community?

243 comments Add your comment

row3

June 22nd, 2009
2:05 pm

Ken, Agreed. The only thing this defense needs is game experience. They will be faster and quicker. Playing together in camp and pre-season should have them ready by regular season. The reason so-called experts in the media may not be sold is the sheer number of key positions involved.

SPEED KILLS!

cutter

June 22nd, 2009
2:31 pm

A year ago, most looked at the Atlanta Falcons and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and figured they would be a 5-11 rebuilding project. But Ryan exploded onto the NFL scene, leading Atlanta to an 11-5 record and becoming the best young quarterback to hit the league since Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Ryan completed 61.1 percent of his passes and threw 16 touchdown passes in a run-oriented, well-coached offense. More than that, Ryan displayed a remarkable presence in the fourth quarter. He also completed passes to his fourth read after only one month, a rare showing by a young QB.

NFC South blog

ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas writes about all things NFC South in his division blog.

• Blog network: NFL Nation
But the Falcons’ return to prominence is more than just Ryan. General manager Thomas Dimitroff comes from the Bill Belichick school of evaluators and has quickly established himself as one of the league’s better personnel minds. Mike Smith is the perfect head coach for Atlanta. A brilliant defensive coach, Smith hired a great staff and won over players by being honest and establishing a consistent voice.

Here are five things other than Ryan that make the Falcons a winner:

1. Improving defense

Despite losing five starters from 2008, the defense should be better than you think. The biggest improvement is in the middle, where the defense is much faster. Mike Peterson, a former Jaguar, provides leadership and experience at weakside linebacker. Thomas DeCoud not only has good size at safety at 6-foot, 193 pounds, but he adds more speed. Plus, second-round pick William Moore should work his way into a three-safety rotation that improves depth.

Peria Jerry, a first-round pick, offers a little more quickness from nose tackle. Stephen Nicholas, a fourth-round pick from 2007, completes a much quicker linebacking corps coming from the strong side. The past two drafts have also added speed and depth at cornerback. Now, Smith can choose from a decent crop of corners — Chris Houston, Chevis Jackson, Brent Grimes, Von Hutchins and rookies Chris Owens and William Middleton. They may not be big corners, but the Falcons now have more speed at the position. The other factor on defense is that vocal defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is a rising star in coaching circles.

2. This team can really run

Expect the Falcons to run 35 times a game, taking pressure off Ryan and allowing him to avoid 30-pass games. Atlanta plans to lighten the load for workhorse Michael Turner, who had 376 carries for 1,699 yards last season. The ace in the hole is Jerious Norwood. People tend to forget Norwood is one of the team’s faster athletes. His career rushing average is a staggering 5.8 yards per carry, but he has never had more than 103 attempts in a season. The Turner-Norwood one-two punch is the perfect blend of speed and power.

3. Solid offensive line

Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau has assembled a group of five starters that should be together for years. Unlike most teams that are switching to more athletic zone blocking schemes, Boudreau has installed a man blocking line that has gotten bigger since the departure of offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, who set up the line for former Falcons coach Jim Mora a couple of years ago. Right tackle Tyson Clabo is 6-foot-6, 332 pounds, and right guard Harvey Dahl is a mauler who will battle until the whistle has blown. The left side of the line offers good athleticism and pass-blocking skills. Left tackle Sam Baker established himself as a solid pass-blocker as a rookie last season. Justin Blalock is a solid left guard, and Todd McClure is a smart center with leadership skills. Dimitroff brought in veteran depth with the signings of centers Brett Romberg and Jeremy Newberry. Garrett Reynolds, a 6-8, 310-pound tackle prospect taken in the fifth round, is being groomed for the future.

4. Development of Harry Douglas

Tight end Tony Gonzalez was the headline acquisition of the offseason, but the development of wide receiver Harry Douglas will make Ryan more dangerous throwing into the middle of the field. Gonzalez’s skills are well known. He’s a future Hall of Famer who has a knack for getting separation in the middle of the field. Douglas, a sleeper in the three-receiver, one-tight end set, could explode this season. At 5-11, Douglas is taller than many slot receivers and has added more than 10 pounds of muscle to his frame. With great targets in Douglas and Gonzalez, Ryan has the luxury of throwing a few higher passes in the middle of the field, knowing Douglas and Gonzalez have the height and leaping skills to grab the ball. That opens up the offense and could allow the Falcons to turn a few more field-goal drives into TD drives.

5. Underestimated D-line

Outsiders might be underestimating their defensive line talent, but the Falcons have a lot of high picks invested in the line. Starters John Abraham, Jamaal Anderson and Jerry are first-round picks. Jonathan Babineaux was a second-rounder and defensive end Chauncey Davis was taken in the fourth round. Jerry’s the most interesting player of the bunch to watch. He’s a little raw, but he has a good first step. Smith has enough linemen to keep them fresh with a nice rotation. Veteran defensive line coach Ray Hamilton made a smart move resting Abraham (16.5 sacks in ‘08) on early downs last season to save him for the pass rush. Hamilton’s next mission is to get more sacks from Anderson and develop Jerry.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Ken Strickland

June 22nd, 2009
7:01 pm

The only starting OFF position that will be open to competition this yr is WR, and the competition will be between HDouglas and MJenkins. Otherwise, our OFF players will spend this training camp working on continuity, chemistry and making the things they did successfully last yr second nature.

The players on last yrs DEF will make some of the same mistakes that last yrs players made. However, the players on this yrs DEF will have the young, speed, quickness and athleticism to recover from those mistakes. Most of the key players on last yrs DEF had either reached their peak(CB DFoxworth & MBoley) or were way past their prime(DT GJackson, OLB KBrooking and SS LMalloy). That meant they offered little to no room for improvement and their continued presence limited the chance for the DEF to get better overall. The added speed, quickness, athleticism and versatility of the young replacements will offer an automatic improvement over the players they’ll replace, and these younger players offer unlimited potential for improvement.

I truely believe the youth and enthusiasm these young players bring to the Falcons will serve to make our DEF much better than expected.

D3

June 22nd, 2009
8:05 pm

From our pal J.Mike Moore @ AtlantaFalcons.com…………..

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey doesn’t have the same concerns as his defensive counterpart.

Brian VanGorder is looking to replace five starters from the Falcons 2008 defense. Mularkey has every starter from the league’s sixth-best offense returning for 2009.

That includes a pair of Pro Bowlers (Michael Turner and Roddy White) and a quarterback that, though in just his second year, gathers heaping amounts of praise like Atlanta asphalt collects heat.

Throw in the acquisition of 10-time Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez and Mularkey sleeps even easier.

I sat down with the veteran offensive coordinator and former NFL head coach Thursday afternoon to get some sound bytes for July. There are some stories in my head that just wouldn’t flow without a few thoughts from the offense’s chief architect.

We talked about every position group but some of the more eyebrow-raising discussions centered around Gonzalez and quarterback Matt Ryan.

No surprise Mularkey is pleased with his team’s success in 2008 and that, in the second year of the system, thinks every player will do better.

But some of the long-term goals were exceeded from the first week of the season.

“You would think (we held things back) and maybe that was the plan when we initially got here before we knew what we had but we were fortunate enough to be around a lot of players that are football intelligent,” Mularkey said. “When you have that, then you can expand and not handcuff yourself into doing some things.

“We went into the Detroit game with Matt and we had more checks than I had with any quarterback prior to that game. We were that comfortable and confident in him. We screwed some things up, we really did, but it didn’t make us want to cut back. We felt like we had the personnel to do some of the things we did and now we think it’s even greater in what we can put out there on the field.”

No wonder Ryan’s teammates say his continued improvement is “scary.”

Mularkey went on to talk about Ryan’s leadership ability and his knack to get players of all levels to follow him on and off the field.

In short, the coach admires the quarterback’s thirst to get better at what he already does well.

While Gonzalez isn’t really a reward for Ryan’s hard work — more an extra dimension for an already proven offense — he will make finding targets easier for the quarterback.

Ryan threw 11 interceptions on the year and saw some of his numbers dip toward the end of the season. Undoubtedly, defenses started to throw a few curve balls in November and December.

The Falcons finished 11-5 and went to the playoffs but Gonzalez could bring exponential increases in production.

Note his game-by-game numbers compared to other Falcons tight ends in 2008:

“Tony will help our offense in a number of ways,” Mularkey said. “One thing he’s going to do is that he’s a productive blocker and that’s important in our offense… As successful as he’s been as a receiver, he’s a good blocker too and he really doesn’t get the credit that he should.

Gonzalez finished with 96 catches for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns last season — his sixth-straight year with at least 900 receiving yards.

Ryan spent the offseason working on accuracy and reading defenses, which will be vital in finding the tight end over the middle of the field and getting it into his receivers’ hands in the red zone.

“I think the No. 1 thing for me going into the offseason was to improve decision-making,” the 2008 Rookie of the Year said. “I’ve watched a ton of film just trying to get better and sharpen up for next season. I’m going to continue to do that for the next two or three months before we open up with our first game.”

Mularkey didn’t go into detail about his plans to change up the play book or add new looks.

Honestly, I didn’t expect him to reveal any secrets.

But you can’t start talking about the addition of a Pro Bowl tight end, the return of stars at receiver and running back, a rising star at quarterback and countless other playmakers without asking the question.

Defensive coordinators having nightmares?

“It’s going to be interesting to see how people match up with us and we’ll try to create some mismatches with where we put people,” Mularkey said. “That’s kind of the offense anyway, even before Tony got here. We’re trying to create mismatches and create problems for defenses. That’s not going to change. That’s our philosophy.”

Spoken like a coach who doesn’t want to tip his hand.

confederated Falcon lost in space

June 22nd, 2009
8:10 pm

Ryan pure media hype. still a punk under pressure in 2009!!

Sarah B

June 22nd, 2009
8:38 pm

VS2 is that you???

falcon fan 4-ever

June 22nd, 2009
8:58 pm

Time will tell what kind of team we’re going to have this year. Coach Smith and Co. will have a team that we can be proud of. the offense will be o.k. with addition of Gonzalez. The defense will need some work. I think the defense will be better than we were last year. But, it will take a couple of players to step up to the task of getting it done. Lb-Lofton, Lb-Nichalos,Lb-Wire,De-Anderson,Db-Houston,Db-Jackson, needs to take it to the next level if we are going to make any noise this year. I believe they can. I like the players we drafted. I believe they will also step up with time. I am excited about this team like no other teams we had before. I’m not saying that we will go to the Super Bowl. But, I believe we will go deeper into the playoffs than last year. The keyword here is BELIEVE! I believe in our front office and our coaches and players to have one hell of a year. Can’t wait till this season to start.

D3

June 22nd, 2009
9:02 pm

Great Mon(dane) Evening Fellow ‘Cagers! Hope everyone is doing well as we wrap up the Dad’s Day Weekend. Just returned from a short trip on taking my little WR to his grandparents for the first time. Nice respite from the city. Continued slow goes here in the ‘Cage but all good nonetheless. To ‘Birds and ‘Ball………..

Adkins locked down – The Falcons announced the signing of linebacker Spencer Adkins Monday afternoon. Five of the team’s eight picks in the 2009 NFL Draft are now under contract. First-round pick Peria Jerry, second-round pick William Moore and fourth-round pick Lawrence Sidbury remain unsigned. Atlanta selected Adkins in the sixth round (176th overall) out of Miami (Fla.). He was the first player taken from the school in the draft. Adkins caught the team’s eye with his speed, which was confirmed with times as low as 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash. With that time, he looks to make the team as a pure special teams ace. Speed, run, and hit will play favorably for him; but the question remains can he replace Robert James or Tony Gilbert as the 6 LB’s we carry?

Stepanovich gone – Offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich was released from the Falcons roster Wednesday afternoon. The six-year veteran signed with the team as a free agent in March 2008 and went on to play in four games, primarily on special teams. He spent some time on the injury list with back problems and was inactive for 12 regular-season games.

Khalil Jones gone too – just read on AtlantaFalcons.com that we just released Khalil Jones late monday evening. The Atlanta Falcons today waived wide receiver Khalil Jones. Jones, a graduate of the University of Miami (Fla.) was originally signed by the Falcons on May 19, 2009 as an undrafted free agent. We all kind of saw this one coming. Even though he had good physical stats, he wasn’t even ranked in the top 50 WRs in the coming out. As well, even with the release of Jones, we still have 10 WRs on roster. Assuming Roddy, Jenks, HD, BFinn make the roster leaving either 1 or 2 spots between Chandler Williams, Eric Weems, Aaron Kelly, Darren Mougey, Troy Bergeron, and Brandon Godfrey.

Managing Expectations – bored at the grocery store today and picked up a Lindy’s Pro Football magazine that featured Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams on the cover, but lo and behold had us ranked to finish first in the NFC South. Smitty and Co. will have to do a helluva job managing expectations with this team. Tons of coaches can’t do it(like my homeboy Richt @ UGA), so it will be a challenge for Smitty to keep our guys hungry and humble.

US Open Letdown – the second best golf tournament of the year was a big letdown, just my opinion. I know they couldn’t control the weather, but having the final round on a monday is a joke. Why not do what the Masters did and play a double round on friday or saturday? Allowing for the showdown on sunday? Didn’t even get to watch the final round today, which sounded like a good one. Here’s to hoping the British is better or Roddick makes some hay at Wimbledon.

Offensive Guard and Center Analysis to come later………

Stirg d'Nahsif

June 22nd, 2009
9:18 pm

Wow! Are we really going to be that good? I mean, I know that a number of us have been discussing the possibilities, the ought-to-be’s and the hypotheses of this year’s squad, since the draft; but, until the posts that Unca’ Bob has been displaying, I didn’t realize that we were going to be THAT potent. Unca’ Bob has revealed the overlook of Harry Douglas. The expectations are obvious with White, Jenkins and Gonzalez. HD’s effectiveness, however, is sometimes overshadowed by our all-star receiving corps. HD is probably the best second-year slot receiver in the NFL, IMO.

On to mention, the depth at every key position is a luxury that we have never been able to afford. Our starting offensive line is further deepened with quality veterans, that could very well start on most NFL teams.

Our defensive backfield, like the report indicated, is stacked with speed and competition will produce the fastest, strongest and best cornerbacks, on the team, to play that position. A wonderful option to have, that I’ve been overlooking, is a three-headed monster at safety. Can you imagine the removal of a defensive lineman or linebacker and then insert the combination of DeCoud, Coleman AND Moore? Gentlemen, I think with the versatility of William Moore, we are about to introduce a new defensive scheme that will, finally, supersede the dominant Cover Two scheme. Let me remind you that some pundits suggested, pre-draft, that Moore should gain weight and move down to play some Will, at times. If that holds true, can’t you see us playing a 4-2 or 3-3 defensive front and enter Moore and/or Decoud, with Coleman, for a three-headed safety? I think that would negate the inexeperience and lack of size we have at the corners. We can still play Cover Two, that Smitty covets, and have a safety lurking around the field. OMG, the options…

I leave this entry with a question. We are aware of all the competitive depth we have at every position on the field. I once considered our cornerback position as the weakest on defense; I digress my argument, after Unca’ Bob’s entry (good work, U.B) and now consider linebacker being the weakest. Albeit the linebacker corps is very good, especially the starters, but who do we have, besides Coy Wire, that will spell quality depth?

Sarah B

June 22nd, 2009
9:31 pm

Stirg, what’s up in Detroit??? It’s very hot here. Our offense and defense will be excellent nobody what anybody says. TD worked miracles last year and will continue to do so.

JJB

June 22nd, 2009
9:47 pm

Do you think that Brian Finneran is a lock to make the team? I know that he has good size and good hands, but I read today (I think Pat Y, espn) that he is on the bubble or at least questionable. What say you?

Sarah B

June 22nd, 2009
9:51 pm

Stirg, are you going to be for game 1? Because if you are myself & Dean21 will plan to have our meeting at the Dome with the cagers week 1. Tailgating baby! I’d love to meet you. And of course the rest of the cagers.

Sarah B

June 22nd, 2009
9:52 pm

Stirg, I meant to say here for game 1.

Stirg d'Nahsif

June 22nd, 2009
10:40 pm

Not sure, Sarah. Miami and Atlanta is so tempting (You know, I mocked Atlanta and Miami to meet in the Super Bowl). I sure would hate to miss the first game. I plan to come home (that sound right?), hopefully, before that first game; and if I do that, these gas prices won’t let me come back before Game One. We’ll see…

Besides, the way I got attacked in this cage when I heckled old Abe, I’m not certain if fellow-cagers want to see me at that game. I’m hell about half-an-hour before gametime; and its not a pretty sight.

I will be at the Detroit/Atlanta first preseason game, though. The band I’m with plan to play and tailgate in the parking lot (go figure, our bass player is from New Orleans and love the ‘Aints). All are welcome to come, if you’re around motown. Planned menu is fish, cheese grits, hush puppies and Red Scripe.

Have y’all finalized the plans for game one meeting/location?

D3

June 22nd, 2009
11:17 pm

What’s up fellas? Good to see some of you back in the ‘Cage.

Stirg – what’s going on my D-Town man? Great analysis of a 3 headed Safety rotation. DeCoud strikes me as more of the Cover Safety and Moore of course as more of the head-hunting run support safety. I can totally see DeCoud and Moore being our FS and SS of the future. Like the idea of running a 4-2-5 or a 3-3-5. Knowing Smitty and BVG I can totally see it happening. It would be similar to a 3-4 where WMoore could serve as an SS/OLB hybrid. I could totally see Abe/PJerry/JA as the three DL; Lofton and Nicholas as LBs, and DeCoud/WMoore/CHouston/CJackson/EColeman as our DEF Secondary.

Bird-Cage meeting potentials – I will definitely be headed to the Aug.1st A.M. Falcons Training Camp and hopefully to the scrimmage game @ Brookwood High School. Would also love to hit the Sat scrimmage game at the Dome, but that might be a stretch. Can’t do it during the week because thats when the little kiddies make their way back in the school building.

JJB – good question on BFinn making the roster. Personally, I think he’s a lock as our #4 WR. The guy is a stud on 3rd down conversions and is money on Special Teams. Even though TG will take away some of those opportunities, I couldn’t see anyone replacing him of the remaining 6 on the roster. I look for Aaron Kelly, Eric Weems, & Troy Bergeron to battle it out for the 1 or 2 remaining spots. Personally I’d love to keep Kelly if he can put on some weight because that’s the perfect spot for him to develop and eventually take over for BFinn. Don’t count out Darren Mougey with his stats, 6′6 & 230 with speed and hands.

Strig(2) – good question and call on our OLB corps. I think Wire is a formidable backup and Gilbert is servicable behind Lofton. I assume TD, Smitty, & Co. are continuing the “process” letting Robert James and Spencer Adkins battle it out for the #6 LB spot. Even though he’s a touch on the light side, they’re real high on Robert “the Beast” James.

Good night all. See you on the flip side. And on that note………..

39 DAYS, 13 HOURS, & 39 MINS UNTIL 2009 ATLANTA FALCONS TRAINING CAMP!

row3

June 22nd, 2009
11:38 pm

Stirg, Get your tickets in section 339. I’ll help you whoop it up 30 min before the game. and another 30 min after the game!

Dean21

June 23rd, 2009
4:15 am

Dean21 – whenever you return, the training camp schedule has been released. I’ll definitely be headed up for the Aug 1st session, and will try to make to a couple of more as well, but that is the first week back for school and it will be hectic getting ready for the upcoming school year. Its too hard to make it up during the week with my 2 month old little WR.

Some Training Camp I’m looking at:
-Sat.Aug 1st (Love to go to both, but A.M. looks promising)
-Fri.Aug.7th (Scrimmage game @ Brookwood High)
-Sat.Aug.8th (Mock game in GA Dome)

OL Analysis later, for those of you interested……..

D3, I will communicate with Sarah B later today to begin setting up our meeting time & date…thanks for the schedule, and thanks for keeping the blog alive and well. I had another small break and took advantage of it, will have another during the holiday.

Sarah B…D3 brought up a good point with the schools starting back in early August. I see we have to plan the tail gating as well during the first game of the preseason and the first game of the season. I can’t wait to join in th festivites at Falcons landing! I’ll be in touch later today to work on the details.

Dean21

June 23rd, 2009
4:22 am

Sarah B – Looks like August 1st is the best date to shoot for..Let’s discuss later today. I’ll be online after 3PM today. I figure Saturday morning session would be the best, so we can determine a meeting location for all the cagers who would like to attend on the final selected day. When I was at the Branch during OTA’S, there was some nice spots to set up for this type of gathering, so I’ll fill you in later. We can also look into some name tags for introduction purposes.

Dean21

June 23rd, 2009
4:24 am

Stirg, that sounds like another plan to look forward to…hopefully Sarah B and I can include you in the mix.

richbrave

June 23rd, 2009
6:10 am

Has anybody got word on why my man LAWRENCE SIDBURY Jr. is one of only three unsigned draft choices? JERRY I understand, but SID at #4 I don’t.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
6:21 am

From an artical written by Rob Rang.

CB Christopher Owens, Atlanta (third; 90th): Though few outside of the WAC know it, San Jose State has featured several NFL-caliber defensive backs over the past few seasons, including Dwight Lowery, a part-time rookie starter last year for the Jets after being drafted in the fourth round, and Coye Francies, a sixth-round pick of the Browns this year. The most consistent of the bunch, however, has been “Peanut” Owens, a 5-9, 180-pound mighty-mite whose toughness, competitiveness and overall athleticism will make him a legitimate contender to start for the Falcons as a rookie.

Strig,

I agree that LB depth is an issue. Another would be TE. Tony G is not going to be with us for too many years. We have a need to bring some one on board to tutor. BYU has Dennis Pitta. He’s 6′5″, 250 lbs. In high school he lettered in football, track, and basketball. Sound familiar? He has won serveral scholastic awards and spent two years dong missionary work for the LDS. His junior year he caught 83 passes in 13 games for 1083 yards. Oh, did I mention, he’s an Eagle Scout?

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
7:00 am

A word of explaination- Jermain Gresham is rated #1 and Pitta is #2 and projected to be drafted in the second round. We have several compensitory picks next year that could be packaged to get our second round pick back. Gresham is an absolute beast. He averaged 5.7 “pancake blocks” per game last season while catching 66 balls for 950 yds,for an average of 14.4 per catch, and 14 TD’s. He also runs a 4.6 forty.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
7:56 am

Pago Flyer

June 23rd, 2009
9:53 am

This should have been m.vicks year!/\

Ken Strickland

June 23rd, 2009
10:12 am

STIRG-we have OLB’s RJames, CWire, SAdkins and EMiles, with MLB TGilbert. Starters MPeterson, who can play MLB, and SNicholas, who can play both OLB positions, will provide versatility and additional depth. This LB group will consist of players that have been chosen, not inherited, by TD and Smitty, and will be much better fits for our DEF system.

Our front 7, along with SS, was our major DEF weaknesses last yr. With the infusion of youth and talent, it will be one of our strengths this yr. We will have both versatility and specialization. When we need to rush the passer, we’ll have pass rushing specialist like DE’s JAbraham, KBiermann and LSidbury and DT’s like PJerry, VWalker and JBabineaux. When we need to stop the run, we’ll have stout DE’s like JAnderson and CDavis and stout DT’s like TLewis, TMiles and TJohnson. At OLB we’ll have CWire, who is strong against the run, and OLB RJames, who is strong against the pass, and is also known as a big hitter.

Our DEF coaching staff did an outstanding job of coaching up the DEF, considering the limited and rather one dimensional talent they had to work with. For the amount of yardage our DEF gave up against both the run and the pass, they did an excellent job of holding down the points allowed. With the massive infusion of youth, speed, quickness, athleticism, mobility and versatility, our DEF coaching staff will have a he!! of a lot more to work their magic with this yr.

This yrs DEF should be able to cut down drastically on the amount of passing and rushing yardage allowed, and correspondingly, the number of pts allowed. The addition of TE TGonzalez should allow our OPF to increase their 3rd down and redzone efficiency, which should correspondingly increase our scoring efficiency. That combination of OFF/DEF improvements should make us a force to deal with this upcoming season.

TALENT AND COACHING WISE, THE ATLANTA FALCONS ARE ON THE SAME LEVEL WITH THE COLTS, STEELERS, PATRIOTS, RAVENS ETC. THE ONLY THING THAT KEEPS US FROM BEING CONSIDERED IN THAT ELITE COMPANY IS OUR OVERALL LACK OF EXPERIENCE, FOR BOTH THE TEAM AND COACHING STAFF. AND A WINNING TRADITION.

THAT WILL SOON CHANGE PEOPLE.

D3

June 23rd, 2009
12:43 pm

Good Tuesday A.M. Fellow Bird-Cagers! Hope everyone is doing well as we approach the dog-day, high heat part of the summer. We all knew it was coming, my poor grass certainly reflects it. Anyway, I digress……….

Dean21 – great to have you back my man. Just took a little mini-vaca’ myself. As much as I would love to make it during the week up to camp, just is looking like it won’t happen getting ready for a new school year. I’m definitely in for the August 1st A.M. Camp @ the Branch. Definitely hitting the Brookwood High Scrimmage Game, and maybe the Sat. scrimmage game at the Dome, but I’ll just have to see with my little buddy and House CEO getting first dibs on time. I’ll be at both pre-season games and all but one regular season game.

Unca’ Bob – good point on OLB & TE being our main and really only needs for depth at this point. We know that OLB will be our top priority in next year’s draft with TE being a close second. I could be mistaken, but I’m not sure that Compensatory Picks can be traded. Could be completely wrong on that one. They addressed every other other area on DEF in this year’s draft and even managed to add competition/depth to our CB situation. Food for thought: hate to say it, but we may be in the market for a #2 RB if a team decides they want to throw starter’s money at Jerious “Burner” Norwood. You can only keep great Tailback Tandems together for so long. See Taylor/Jones-Drew & Jacobs/Ward.

More to come in a few. Good to see the ‘Cage has sprung to life of sorts.

Stirg d'Nahsif

June 23rd, 2009
12:44 pm

Good points. I certainly enjoyed your clip, Unca’ Bob, about Peanut Owens. I hear TD’s process of due diligence is being noticed and admired around the league; and if Owens fit “the Matrix”, he must be special. He has a knack for sniffing out very good, talented players in middle and late rounds. I do believe Peanut is one of those players. Good point, Unca’ Bob. You really think we have a legitimate weakness at TE? You remember, you were there, how I spent countless nights arguing my point about TEs Pettigrew and Gonzalez. One night, after the rumor went up about us acquiring Gonzo, I made an entry with different looks we could use. I suggested Pettigrew/Peelle, Gonzo/Peelle, Pettigrew/Peelle/Hartsock, Gonzo/Peelle/Hartsock, Pettigrew/Gonzo/Peelle, Pettigrew/Moran/Peelle, Moran/……you get my point. That is a very good line-up, considering catching TE’s aren’t favorable in Mularkey’s scheme. When they played, both Peelle and Hartsock averaged ten yards per catch. I think we are very solid at TE, right now. Certainly would agree with you, though, that we target the best tight end in next year’s draft and we would certainly have bargaining chips to achieve that. I can’t remember the best tight end that was projected in next year’s draft but I do remember it was somebody that was like Pettigrew, to-the-third-power. I’ll look it up…

Ken (wiping my forehead), I still can’t figure out, for the life of me, how in the hell did we give up so many yards and allowed an unequal amount of points? That just does not equate, to me. Still, it happened and I don’t believe in turning over meat, several times, on the grill. Very good point though; thanks for the reminder.

The point about the depth at linebacker. I think I should have phrased the questioned a little different. The word I was supposed to use was “proven”. At every key position we have “proven” depth. Offensive and defensive lines, wide receiver, tight end, offensive and defensive backfields all have “quality-proven” players sitting behind the starters. I think linebacker is the one position we have that don’t demonstrate proven players. I’ll go along with you for Peterson and Gilbert at middle linebacker; however, its debatable about the OLB position.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
1:27 pm

Strig,

At this time I feel we ae set at TE. However, when Tony G departs, we will be exactly where we were last year. Bring in a TE that can do it all and train him to replace TG. If you obtain this player in the second round, the expectations won’t be quite so high. Therefore, he would not be expected, nor needed, to start until TG retires.

LB- There are a lot of good players out there. Two of them are Sergio Kindle from Texas, and Sean Witherspoon from Missouri.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
2:21 pm

Strig,

Peele & Hartstock combined for 18 completions, 185 yds. and 2 touchdowns. Mularkey was himself, a TE. I feel we are going to get way more from TG than we got last year. P & H stuck No fear in any one in the red zone or anywhere else for that matter. Watch what MM does this year with TG. You will like it!

jason

June 23rd, 2009
2:27 pm

Offensive line depth

Last year was an anomaly. Four of the starters started all 17 games, with only tackle Sam Baker missing action. Knowing how rare that is, the Falcons brought in guard-center Jeremy Newberry, guard-center Brett Romberg and tackle Will Svitek as free agents and drafted tackle Garrett Reynolds in hopes of building depth. “It’s going to be a pretty good competition,” offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said.

This was a topic a day or so ago. Look at the names. That will be our depth at OL. Baker, Blalock, McClure, Dahl, and Clabo are your starters with Newberry, Romberg, Svitek, and Reynolds providing back up. By that, Ojinnaka does not make the team unless ATL goes with 10 OL.

jason

June 23rd, 2009
2:33 pm

Not to get to far in the future, but next years draft will be interesting. Roster will be tweaked, and needs drafted to bring in competition at positions. I agree with LB and TE being 2 needs for depth and competition. I also see RB and WR as 2 others. RB in case of Norwood leaving and WR because Finn ain’t getting any younger. That’s four out of a possible 7 or 8 picks. I also see DE, especially if Anderson does prove to be a bust( Hope Not). I don’t see a “True” need looking forward to next year’s draft as of now.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
2:40 pm

Jason,

Don’t discount A Kelly at WR just yet. Also, didn’t Anderson play TE in college?

Stirg d'Nahsif

June 23rd, 2009
3:13 pm

Yeah, Unca’ Bob, I agree with you. I think we will eventually need to bring in a TE to replace TG, just like we’ll have to eventually replace old-Abe. I didn’t consider drafting outside of first round to negate high expectations, until you mentioned it. Considering the high expectations we have for the team this season, we may not have a choice; and, we may not have to, with Hartsock and Peelle. Like I mentioned, and you confirmed it with your stat, they averaged ten yards a catch. Albeit, the pass attempts were low in number, the law of proportion tells me that 18 catches for 182 yards can equate to 180 catches for 1820 yards (please, excuse my optimism). The point is, in MM’s system, they are two very good, quality-proven tight ends.

Good post!

row3

June 23rd, 2009
3:13 pm

D3, Your right, compensatory picks cannot be traded. You could package a couple of regular picks to move up.

Unca’Bob, I too am hoping A Kelly becomes Finn’s eventual replacement. A year in an NFL weight room could make him a Beast.

Who are the top OLB prospects for next years draft?

jason

June 23rd, 2009
3:19 pm

I have my eye on Kelly, but at the same time you would want to have at the minium 5 WRs. Anderson was a TE. Can he move back if DE doesn’t work? Just kidding. If Anderson doesn’t show dratsic improvement, he will be gone after this year, or he will drop behind Sid and Bierrman in the pecking order.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
3:25 pm

row3,

There are many good prospects at OLB this year. The two I mentioned above are just the tip of a vert large iceberg. Jerry Hughes, TCU, rico McCoy, Tenn, Antonio Coleman, Aub. They are uot there.

Dean 21

June 23rd, 2009
4:38 pm

D3, that’s fine. I actually think it’s a better day to choose than any other right now. We will look into setting up for the August 1st date. I too will be at the preseason games and hopefully all of the home games.

I agree Stirg & Jason with the TE, WR and RB positions – I’m also thinking the TE happen in next years draft. It seems that TD’s MO is to draft from within instead of big time free agents right now. I think he filled the spots he wanted to in free agency, now he will just draft the talent going forward. Dude knows what he’s doing!

Dean 21

June 23rd, 2009
4:48 pm

Unca Bob, man you are one big time researcher! Dude, you are scary…hehehe I for one appreciate them all, you have kept the cage alive and well with your post and research. What a positive blog (cage) we have now compared to the negative stuff in the past!

D3, yeah, I’m glad to be back in the cage again, like I said last night..I’m also looking forward to a litte R&R after completing the HD list from the house CEO as you so kindly put it. I’ll be taking off in a couple weeks down to Fla to get some family time in before the hustle and bustle of the upcoming football season. I’m still jacked about my tickets and seats, can’t wait to test them out at the preseason games. I’m thinking that Brookwood practice will be fun as well, may have to adventure myself there also.

Sarah B. – Are you ready my dear? Like one of the great Isley Brothers tunes….We have some work to do….

Sarah B

June 23rd, 2009
5:01 pm

I am, however just wrapping up work so I will jump back on when I get home.

Dean 21

June 23rd, 2009
5:11 pm

ok, that will be fine.

Unca' Bob

June 23rd, 2009
7:28 pm

Dean 21,

Thank you. I simply try to keep it interesting. There are many, many Cager’s that do the exact same thing, in their own way. Props to one and all. Without D-Led we would not even have the blog to post on. The kudo’s go to him.

D3

June 23rd, 2009
7:37 pm

**Transfer Alert**

New blog posting alert gents and gals! DOL’s got us a new blog post, so lets transfer this convo on over. See you there.

Ken Strickland

June 23rd, 2009
9:19 pm

STIRG-once teams got to our 20yd line, our pass DEF got much better because the territory we had to defend was drastically reduced. If you’ll remember, SS LMalloy usually did a good job in pass coverage near the redzone. The closer a DB is to the goalline, the more important experience and technique become, as apposed to sheer speed and athleticism.

It’s too early to be concerned about our overall depth. Remember, we’ll have a chance to improve our depth as plenty of veteran OLB’s will be cut during training camp.

I also believe another pass catching TE will be brought in this yr. It doesn’t make sense to expand our passing OFF to include TE TGonzalez and not have a replacement that can fill his shoes as a pass receiver in the event he’s injured.