Why So Conservative on Offense?

Personnel or Coaching?

The Falcons finished the regular season ranked among NFL leaders in several categories. Roddy White finished first in receptions (115) and second in receiving yards (1,389). His yardage total was tops in the NFC.

All-Pro Roddy White (CCompton/AJC)

It’s as classic a question for our Atlanta Falcons football team as the chicken and the egg argument. Do the Falcons coaching staff, and particularly the two coordinators, intentionally not design aggressive play-calling on offense and defense due to the lack of talent and speed to carry it out? Or are the coaches mostly to blame for the overly conservative play-calling that helped lead to a 13-3 season, but also a butt-whipping for the ages in the playoffs? It’s a challenging question and one that’s sure to get some good debate going. Since us laypersons aren’t privy to the inner-workings up in Flowery Branch, all we can do as fans is just make an educated guess as to which one it may be. Thought it might be helpful to break it down by position on terms of talent (or lack thereof) and determine which needs the most work: personnel or coaching………


A ESPN panel of analysts has voted the Falcons as the No. 1 team in the NFL following their Week 10 win over the Ravens. Here are their credentials in order of ranking ... 1. FALCONS (7-2): Behind Matt Ryan, Atlanta has the 8th best offense in the NFL, scoring 24.7 points per game. Atlanta has run more plays (638) than any other team. The defense allows 19.4 ppg and gives up about 340 yards of offense per game.

Looks Like a Pretty Good Throw (CCompton/AJC)

A no-brainer here. Matt Ryan may not yet be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he certainly has shown that he’s capable of making things happen with his arm and his mental prowess. As many fans have mentioned before (including my own mother a long while ago), it appears that Mike Mularkey and Mike Smith preach all the time about giving the reigns to Ryan and letting him run the show, except their actions are quite different. Ryan was known as a gunslinger when they drafted him from Boston College and, even though he threw a lot of interceptions, he was a dynamic playmaker when allowed to air it out. One of the only games that Mularkey completely let Ryan run the show, he comes up with his best NFL game of his career against the vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense (32/50, 316 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Ints). The Falcons may not have Jerry Rice and Art Monk lining up at WR, but they have enough talent to trust Ryan and let him run the offense. Sure, he may have some bad games, but the point is to let your franchise quarterback do his best if you truly believe he’s the franchise. Do any of these QB’s run a conservative, ball-control offense: Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Vick, Rivers, or Brees? Smith and Mularkey better figure out quickly that the Falcons will only go as far as they let Ryan take them. Culprit – Coaching, Hands Down.

Running Back

This one’s a little tougher. A healthy Jerious Norwood (or any other speed back) may make this a different argument. Michael Turner just made his 2nd Pro Bowl in 3 years and is a grinding and tough running back. Even though he takes some time to going, if Turner goes over at least 50 yards rushing, than the Falcons usually win. On the flip side though, as Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Philadelphia showed, if you shut down the running attack and specifically Turner, than you’ll likely win. Unfortunately, Turner is completely one-dimensional which gives away what’s likely coming with Turner in the game. Jason Snelling is a more complete back who is excellent catching the ball out of the backfield, but there would be times when Snelling would go missing without designed play-calls to get him in the game. Although Snelling is much better out of the backfield, the two backs still are too similar. The Falcons will likely be in danger of losing Snelling if he seeks a bigger payday and more touches. Neither are capable of big breaks much anymore and certainly aren’t homerun threats. The Falcons got next to nothing out of 3rd RB’s Antone Smith and Gartrell Johnson. Again, it could be Mularkey and Smith’s fault for not getting them involved, but we’ll never know. The Falcons desperately need speed at the RB position. Culprit – Toss Up/Lean Personnel

Wide Receiver

Not Fast Enough for Mularkey? (CCompton/AJC)

Probably the most difficult to discern of all the positions. Do the Falcons really have any game-breakers here? Yes, Roddy White is a Pro Bowl player, but is he a true vertical threat anymore? Can’t know since the play-calling rarely ever tries to get White down field. Is Michael Jenkins really fast and tall and just can’t get downfield? Again, never know since Jenkins routes rarely go past the 12 yard marker and hooks and curls are the only routes Mularkey calls for him. Harry Douglas was a rookie phenom that did great in his first year, but evidently had a hard time getting back up to speed from his ACL injury in 2009. Or was it his fault since he was rarely integrated into the passing attack? Brian Finneran is certainly no deep threat and he seems to be maximized pretty well by Mularkey with his great hands and chain-moving ability. The most puzzling piece to the puzzle is certainly Eric Weems lack of use in the passing attack when he clearly has shown he has speed and good open field moves. If Douglas wasn’t getting it done, than give Weems a shot at the slot position, or better yet get both of them on the field at the same time. The Falcons may not have the best and deepest receiving corps in the world, but they certainly have one of the better ones in the league. This is unequivocally on Mike Mularkey and his conservative play-calling. You have one Pro Bowl quarterback armed with a Pro Bowl (and just named All-Pro) WR and a future Hall of Fame TE (and Pro Bowler) Tony Gonzalez and you finish dead last in the league in longest pass play and 31st in the league in passing plays over 20+ yards? The Falcons definitely could use a true deep threat to complement Roddy White and Jenkins may be better suited as a #3 receiver, but being near dead last in explosive plays in the NFL with 5 Pro Bowlers is inexcusable. Culprit – Absolutely Coaching.

Tight Ends

Tony Gonzalez is headed for the Hall of Fame as soon as he hangs up his cleats and he’ll likely go down as the best tight end of all-time in the NFL. With that being said though, Gonzalez has seemed to lost a step or two in stretching the field the way he used to. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that because that’s what tight ends are supposed to do, but teams are increasingly counting on their tight ends to split the seams and get down field. It’s still unfathomable that Gonzalez didn’t get his first catch until the 3rd quarter in the playoffs against the Packers, and that’s on coaching. For the most part, Mularkey seems to get the most out of his tight ends. Justin Peele has some of the best hands of the team and is sneaky quick, but seemingly rarely used in the passing game. Michael Palmer is young, but has shown flashes of potentially being the next guy for the Falcons at tight end. After a few games of use, Palmer goes back into the famous shell that Mularkey seems to break out for so many players. The Falcons may not have pure speed at tight end, but they have pretty good depth to go with their future Hall of Famer. Culprit – Toss Up/Lean Coaching

Offensive Line

Yet another head scratcher. Some believe that the Falcons can’t go deep because the offensive line is so porous that Ryan doesn’t have the time to look down field. This one’s a tough call. The Falcons have the savvy veteran Todd McClure at center, a 1st round pick at left tackle in Sam Baker (who’s not the most popular person in the world, but did have a better year), and 2nd round pick in Justin Blalock at guard who has had his own ups and downs, but has stabilized recently. The other two were worked into wonders from the practice squad in Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo (who was named to the Pro Bowl). There’s no denying the magic that OL Coach Boudreau has worked with this group. They are the classic overachievers and were key to the 13-3 record and winning the NFC South. The current starting unit (which in all likelihood will not be the same) were fantastic against good and average teams, but were beaten against the toughest defenses. Besides Baker, Thomas Dimitroff has invested draft picks on the offensive line in right tackle Garrett Reynolds (5th round – 2009), guard Mike Johnson (3rd round – 2010), and center/guard Joe Hawley (4th round – 2010). No one has the slightest clue on the last three because they’ve served as pure backups for the last two years. With Blalock, Clabo, and Dahl all becoming unrestricted free agents this spring, it’s almost a certainty that all will not be back and possible even 2 out of 3 may not be. Even though the offensive line hasn’t had the same investment as some other positions, they have overachieved due mainly to Boudreau’s tutoring. But Mike Mularkey doesn’t get absolved from not going deep with a line that was in the running for All-Madden OL of the year. Two of the best offenses in the NFL (Packers and Saints) aren’t necessarily known for having the best offensive lines in the NFL, but they have no problem attacking. If not for Boudreau, this one swings to coaching.  Culprit – Personnel.



The Experts Weigh In (Your Turn)

-The post you’ve been waiting for…..why is this offense so conservative: coaching or personnel?

-Culprit – All coaching, all personnel, or about 50/50?

-What percentage would you assign for the conservative philosophy: (example – 70% coaching/30% personnel).

-Give your own position breakdown.

-Agree/Disagree with “Culprits” by position.

-Is Mularkey really trying to “mask and protect” Ryan or is this all on him?

-Do the Falcons have a ball-control offense because they have few-to-no gamebreakers?

-Has Mularkey maximized his less than speedy backfield?

-What should Falcons do for speed at RB: draft, free agent, or stand pat?

-If Falcons draft a speed RB, what round?

-Please explain the anemic pass offense: Mularkey or lack of talent outside of Roddy?

-Is the tight end position being maximized? Need for speed there?

-Does Mularkey refuse to throw deep and attack because he can’t due to OL?

-Is offensive line good enough or are upgrades needed?

-Who would you re-sign out of Blalock, Dahl, and Clabo?

-What should the Falcons OL look like in 2011?

207 comments Add your comment

Unca' Bob

January 24th, 2011
9:56 pm

Enter your comments here


January 24th, 2011
10:01 pm

Just in the nick of time!

Bangkapi Ajarn

January 24th, 2011
10:06 pm

Personnel! More comments tomorrow, hopefully. Been busy (wife’s B’day)


January 24th, 2011
10:07 pm

Well said D3. I pretty much agree with you on most points. The play calling for the offense does seem to be the main culprit. As I have said before, it seems as though Mularkey wants to fit the players into his scheme. He does not look at the players strengths or weaknesses and try to fit a scheme to them. That is what all good managers and personnel people do. Not just in football but every successful business.

Screen Pass

January 24th, 2011
10:13 pm

“TG is perfect for Mularkeys offense. Do you not see that after two Turner guard arse plows for two yards we are looking at 3rd and 8? TG is the perfect possession tight end for getting 7 yards on a mularkey patented 7 and out route. That leaves 4th and 1 you say? Of course, how else would we show off our franchise tag punter Koenen? Did you see our last game against the Packers? Our defense held the Packers punter on the sideline the ENTIRE game, he didn’t even get on the field. This allowed us to showcase Koenen and our franchise punting game. Truth, you want us to be agressive and a good offensive point scoring team. That will not allow us to show the world what a franchise punter brings to a team, it could even mean getting rid of Mularkey as an agressive point scoring offense would put his 3rd and long scheming talents to waste. Just something to think about.” – SP

Light hearted snark, comments from a raging a-hole, or is this guy on to something? Never thought about really, but what does it say about your organizations mins set when you put a franchise tag on your punter? Are you saying our offense sucks so we better be prepared or are you saying lets get a guy like Mularkey so we can use our franchise weapon punter more often? In regards to the new topic, I think it is obvious that our brass and coaches need a more aggressive mind set on offense.

Unca' Bob

January 24th, 2011
10:18 pm


I think you stuck the chord. Like you , I don’t feel we are using our personnel in the correct manner. Very well stated! Cudos to ya’. Some one got it right.


January 24th, 2011
10:39 pm

As for breaking down the positions:

QB – Definitely Coachjing. How can the Falcons move the ball so much better with Ryan in the No-huddle then having the plays called in from the sidelines?

RB – I will; agree that a speedy RB would make things a bit easier on the Falcons, but with a multi-dimensional player like Snelling on the field more, it could lead to more passes out of the backfield, screens, and keeping the defense playing honest. Lets face it, Roger Craig wasn’t the fastest RB during his time, but his success was getting him out of the backfield catching passes to keep the defense honest. This could be a toss up, but I would lean more to coaching as the culprit.

WR – What more could be said, coaching, coaching, coaching! Mularkey needs to design plays that feature other WR’s than just Roddy as primary targets. We all know who is going to gain most of the attention form the defense, lets use it to our advantage.

TE – Once again, we have good talent in the position that is not being used. How many times have you seen a 5 receiver package come from a double tight end formation? With TG and Peeler/Palmer, White, Jenkins and Snelling, this is not only possible, but could be very successful. Most D’s would automatically think run (Especially with Turner in the mix), but to pass from it would either force them to play honest, or have a breakdown in coverage, or both.

OL – This will probably be my only personnel shortcoming. I think Boudreau has done a wonderful job with what he has. I have stated before that the O-Line is a very tricky component of a football team. You don’t need to have the very best players at every position to have a very successful O-line. O-Line is more about chemistry than anything else. I think the players we have out there have proven this point. None of them are “outstanding” alone, but together they are cohesive and productive.

As for a speedy RB, I would go mid to upper rounds in the draft. We have more pressing needs that call for FA’s than RB (DE, CB just for example).


January 24th, 2011
11:01 pm

BTW here is a little reviewed fact. Remember back to our worst season in the past three years, 2009.
October 11 we go to San Fransisco to dismantle the 49ers. Roddy White catches a pass and proceeds to outrun the entire 49er team. Only one player was able to catch up to him. From the other side of the field, Jenkins catches up with Roddy to block for him as he races to the endzone. Who says that Michael Jenkins doesn’t have any speed. We just don’t get to see it with the short routes he is being told to run.

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January 25th, 2011
2:46 am

why didnt the falcons win the superbowl under Vick?….too many throws to the TE……why cant Dallas and San diego win anything?…..too many TE passes…….why didnt Dan Reeves win a championship?….he loved TEs too much……but, what happened to the Giants three years ago when shockey went down.? !!……the NFL is a wide reciever league, get used to it….


January 25th, 2011
3:32 am

I would put most of the conservative play calling on the coaches. I think the closer we got to the number on seed, being division champs, we started to play not to lose in stead of playing to win. You can get away with certai things in the regular season especially early. However when you get to the playoffs it is time to raise the level of intensity. That doesn’t only apply to the players it applies to the coaches as well. Because if you follow sports we all know the season is on the line once the playoffs hit. Now we talk about personell, we have the personell to be affective. We have put up 40 points this season and previous seasons with this same personell. Therefore we are capebable of scoring at a high level. Yes we miss Norwoood and yes we can use a tight end that can stretch the feild more. However, that is no excuse to be conservative. Earlier in the season we used multiple formations and I thought the play calling was execellent. But it showed in a lot of the games this that when we got a lead we took our foot off the gas and tried to cruise to victories.And we all know great teams will adjust especially when the playoffs arrive. Maybe we like to have long drives and mathotically move down the field to keep our defense off of the field. However, to win games against elite teams you have to score points. For example our divsion rivals have one of the worst defenses in the league, and they have a superbowl victory because they can outscore other teams if need be. The same can be said about the colts there defense has never been great and they always keep the pressure on the other teams offensives to score. As far as personell goes I thought coaches get paid to maximize the personell that you have. As far as upgrading thats what free agency, the draft and trades are for. I think thats what seperates the great coaches from the good ones. Don’t gte me wrong I love our coaching staff however, I do believe that we have more talent than we display. Look at the steelers, patriots, colts, packers, and saints. They have talent but I neither team has more or less talent at the wide reciever postion than us. However, when they loose talent they replace that talent and they continue to score at a high level. Matt Ryan is maturing and needs to move better in the pocket and that will come over time. Because every play that is called from the previous teams are not all going to work therefore Ryan has to learn how to extend plays and the receivers need to come back to the ball and keep moving if the initial route isn’t there. We could definitley us a speedy runnnig back, I say draft one in the mid to later rounds because it is not a dyer need. As far as the offensive lines goes I completely agree with bcinbuford. We have a average individuals but they play well as a group. They need to give Matt Ryan a little more time and Matt Ryan needs to move better in the pocket. But the blame has to go on the coaches because we can drive right down the feild in the first quarter and score and then when teams adjust we don’t adjust. I would like to see more screen passes either with turner or snelling, as well as more formations and variations on offense. Maybe we can use another possesion receiver via draft or free agency however we must not forget we drafted Kerry Meiyer last year and he look good in training camp before he got hurt. I think the more glaring needs are on the defensive side of the ball. With all that being said…….. IT IS STILL GO FALCONS!!!!!! THE REAL A TOWN GOT YOUR BACK!!!!!


January 25th, 2011
4:27 am

Da’Rel Scott!!!!!!!

The Real Falcon

January 25th, 2011
6:57 am

Look at the Packers and see what is possible when you have multiple playmakers at the skill positions. We need a true #2 WR and move Jenkins to the #3. We need a speed runner at RB for a change of pace. We need to draft a pass-catching TE in the second round to move in when Gonzalez leaves. It’s not rocket science. We need more play-changing players on both sides of the ball.


January 25th, 2011
7:14 am

Mornin’ Cage — As usual D3 has covered all the bases. After all is said and done I saw MR pressured more in the playoff game than any other time this year. Weak OL? Yes! How can a QB do his job when he’s constantly on the run? MR did a good job considering. We’ve got to get some heavys up front. The play calling was poor to say the least in the playoff game. They were and have been very predictable. The changes that need to be made are obvious, so let’s see what happens. If Norwood comes back healthy this year it will add a some to the scheme of things but the OL needs the most work as far as I can see. We’ve got a super QB. Let’s protect him. GO FALCONS!

Chop Buster

January 25th, 2011
7:25 am

D3, we’ve been talking about this conservative offense all year. My take on why things are they way they are with the offense is due to coaching. As a manager, ultimately I’m responsible for how my employees perform. There’s no way I would know for sure, but Smith is the HC and he is responsible for his OC’s & DC’s performance, signing off on game plans, and making changes when the standards/goals aren’t met.

Think about it. Coaching is responsible for establishing the scheme, the mindset of the team (aggressive/passive), making adjustments to what the defense is doing (in game), creating innovative plays to keep the defense guessing, and fielding the players that will give you the best chance to win (use all weapons).

I would say that we do lack some of the personnel, but I can’t say that because we don’t use what we have. You’re telling me you couldn’t get Peele or Palmer on the field with Gonzalez and throw the ball to one of them using Gonzalez as a decoy? You can’t get Weems on the field with Finneran, Douglas, Jenkins and White? They can’t cover them all.

You’re telling me we can’t give Ovie more touches (includes passes out of the backfield), instead of using him just as a blocker? This guy is a beast and is looking to deliver a blow to the defender. We couldn’t throw to Smith or Johnson out of the backfield? Why don’t we run a three set back formation? We’re missing a speed back that is willing to initiate contact with the defender. Tip-toe Turner and Snelling are not a smash mouth backs.

Offensive line is definitely a personnel issue. Baker gets beat constantly. Against the better DLs in the league they get manhandled. If you’re going to run a Pittsburgh style offense, at least get some mean and nasty bohemoths on the field that can manhandle any opponent.

The bottomline is coaching is responsible for 90% of the team’s success or failure. The other 10% is on player execution–providing you have the RIGHT player on the field. Of course, we could always use more weapons on the offense. What good is it if the coaches don’t know how to use what we have?

Chop Buster

January 25th, 2011
7:37 am

I left my thought hanging on Smith. What I meant to say is he is ultimately responsible for how his coaches perform and game plan. It’s his offensive and defensive scheme so I can’t blame Mularkey or BVG–because Smith stands by and does nothing to change it.


January 25th, 2011
8:06 am

Because of play calling and offensive scheme, our offensive unit has evolved into one that plays on a THIRTY YARD FIELD – the really good teams use all 100 yards.

Our weaknesses are all related to coaching including the offensive line and running backs. Just as Matt Ryan is put in a difficult position to throw for a first down on third down after two runs by Michael Turner, the offensive line is put in the same position of providing ultimate protection when everyone knows a pass is coming. We have to keep a back in to have more protection. The other teams know what the Falcons will do on every down so the QB, offensive line, and running backs hardly ever have an advantage of surprise. For the running backs, case and point the same two runs by Turner in the NO game at the goal line. If Michael Turner is in, it is a run. If Snelling comes in, it is a pass. Look at the formations! Since the Falcons are last in 25+ plays, the defensive units of the other teams can put more emphasis in the thirty yards in front of the Falcons offensive formations. Since the Falcons don’t go for the long pass, the other teams don’t waste a lot of effort on that phase of the game. We need a different kind of running back but would a different running back change things if Mike Mularkey continues to call the same plays? We have never known how to use Jeris Norwood. I remember seeing Norwood in the preseason of his first year and how amazed I was at his speed and ability to break long runs. What happened? Norwood was used in the Wildcat formation but did that do anything since it was so obvious what play was coming. While on the subject of Norwood, why would a coach put him on the kickoff return team (knee injury) since he is really a fragile/thin back? Our coaching staff has no common sense on anything related to advancing the ball to score points. We are interested in statistics such as time of possession, Turner yards, etc.


January 25th, 2011
8:29 am

The coaching staff definitly needs some changes, Personnel changes? No. Attitude changes? Yes. You would think that after a 13 – 3 season and two weeks to prepare that MM would at least have come up with a trick play or two but we didn’t see any sign of that.
I also don’t understand the DBs playing 12 to 15 yds. off the receivers on the line. QBs like Rodgers and Brees have no trouble reading a zone D. I WILL say that the coaches can’t coach heart and tenacity. A player either has it or he doesn’t. Hopefully Smith learned from the trouncing we suffered in the playoff game.


January 25th, 2011
8:52 am

This article really covered everything i saw wrong with the 2010 team .Most of the falcons problems come from the coaches play calling schemes. I have always believed Smith and the rest of his coaching staff were to conservative on Offenses as if they didn’t believe in their QB .I didn’t believed Smith was the right man for the job when he was first hired and i don’t believe the falcons will ever get to the next level with him him as their head coach now .


January 25th, 2011
9:36 am

QB – Coaching Philosophy and OL personnel. We like to keep our defense off the field and aren’t the best pass blockers. Matt can wing it, but we need to strectch the field.

RB – Personnel. Clearly we run the ball quite well and Snelling had 3rd most catches. No threat to break a long run at the second level.

WR – Toss-up. I don’t want to kill HD because he has been injured but what has been Jenkins excuse. Finneran is a possession guy. Weems as Special Teamer. Where is the talent? Conversely, Roddy and Jenkins can both stretch the field and for gods sake that still leaves HD, TG, and Snelling to work that area like they always do!

TE – Personnel? Coaching? Hard to pinpoint this one. On one hand I think our personnel’s talents match what they are being asked to do. Should they be employed differently? Dunno. I would like to see more 2 TE sets like NE, but maybe we don’t have it.

OL – Personnel. These guys are doing their job relatively well and can be road graters but need work in the pass. Honestly, it’s not personnel, it’s just Sam Baker, who should be an RT but that is coaching. And yet, Boudreau has coached all these guys up.

I really don’t think a position breakdown is all that helpful because it depends on the scheme. Like, we don’t run screens so why does Turner need to be able to catch. We work our TEs over the middle why does Gonzo need to run. Our OL isn’t as good at pass blocking so we run short routes. Our WRs are good blockers so we run. Our WRs are also pretty good short and can pick up some YAC.

I still say we are conservative for two reasons: defense and lack of speed/hands needed to create more spacing. I think spacing can be addressed but don’t see this staff leaving our D out to get tired.


January 25th, 2011
9:37 am

GREAT ARTICLE. Exactly how it should be seen. Our problems start and end with Mularkey.


January 25th, 2011
9:37 am

Predictable play calling is the first complaint fans have about their teams offense. You are only going to either run or pass. That is a 50-50 proposition unless it is 3rd and long, then you need to pass. The Falcons frequently passed on 1st down as well. When the defense imposes its will on your offense, (such as Green Bay did) you do look predictable. Coaches spend 80 hours a week looking at game film. Arm chair QB’s swig beer and complain.


January 25th, 2011
9:45 am

WR: Hey guys when you look at your slot and he averages 1 catch for 2 yds in the playoffs, you have a problem. I like Douglas, but we need a real burner in the slot. That would take a lot of pressure off White and Jenkins. Green Bay used 7 receivers and all of their catches averaged better than 12 yds against ATL. It is depth in personnel that is the culprit. More depth means more options for the coaches. Hopefully Kerry Meyers will help, but we still need a burner!


January 25th, 2011
9:45 am

For drafting an RB, I would take the right one in the first round and definitely the first day. You telling me Safeties worry about their angles and crap with these two RBs? No, they stay on coverage longer. Remember Dunn and even Norwood. You don’t come up to get him and you can run to congratulate him in the end zone. RB yards are nice and move the chains but nobody worries about the Falcons running game beating them by scoring. Only controlling the clock.

On another note, really interesting comments from Jamie Dukes on 680the fan on how the Falcons can get better. He said watch the GB tape. Our 3-4 WRs weren’t as good as theirs and their 3-4WRs killed our 3-4 CBs. Not sure if Williams makes much of an impact going forward. So basically, you get a No. 2 and move Jenks to 3 or get more from the slot/4. Maybe Meier.

Also heard a lot about getting a true No. 1 CB even if you pay a Nnandi.


January 25th, 2011
9:56 am

More good stuff ugab.

I agree in terms of personnel upgrades needed at RB and WR. Definitely see a much more explosive offense if we can pick up a speed threat in both areas. I’m also curious to know how many carries Turner ended up with at the end of the season. I don’t make much of the “curse of 350″ or whatever it is, but it’s pretty evident that Turner seems to be tip-toeing his way to the backend of his career. To simply put it, I don’t think the arrow on him is pointing up anymore. Even if Turner’s capable of putting together another good season next season as he did this season, it’s evident that we need to start looking around for another back who can change the pace and also someone who could step into Turner’s role because his tank is closer to empty at this point than it is full.

I also agree about our running game, and our offense in general. Our RB’s don’t force guys to play closer to the line. Defenses aren’t afraid of the big run vs. us. They know that if Turner gets a hole, it’s 5-7 yards max with the occasional 10+ yarder. The only threat our running game poses is the T.O.P. issue. I also think a quicker back that can catch some balls out of the backfield gives Matty Ice another weapon. Snelling’s good for catching passes out of the backfield, he’s a good dumpoff guy – but not great. Again, catching a pass out of the backfield doesn’t translate to big plays for us. We don’t have any threats that guys really fear to catch if they get in the open field. Gotta get some guys in here that can add this threat to our offense.

As far as WR’s go, I think we’re all in agreement that we need to get one that’s got big play potential. I’m not sure what the draft board will look like. WR in the 1st round or RB? I’m leaning towards snagging a good back with that 1st pick if there’s one available for us to grab that provides us with good value for that pick. Don’t wanna reach for one.

Paddy O

January 25th, 2011
10:30 am

If you recall the entire season, Ryan & the coaching staff have shown growth/evolution. Beginning of the year we did not hold a RB or TE for extra pass coverage. Also, Ryan was not effective at varying his snap count, about the 3rd game he adjusted. Also, we started to run Svitek out as a pass eligible tackle/TE (HC SMith also altered the special teams – but that took about 7 games). Remember the Raven game, where we kept Turner in & he KO’d Ray Lewis? In the GB game, we went with an empty backfield almost the entire time in the 2nd half,although I do remember a dumb run between the tackles for 0 yards early on. GB runs good blitz stunts, criss crossing their attackers behind the scrimmage line – primarily with Mathews, which also freed up Raji – because it causes just enough controlled chaos. Without the RB blocker, which 2 of our 3 guys are excellent, and Snelling is very good at blocking, suddenly it appeared as though our O line was not stopping the pressure. One of the problems MM had – he presents an incomplete, slow to ingame-adjust, scheme. Also, I would really like to know who called the QB sneak & the roll out to Ryans off shoulder, which resulted in the TD interception – both of which were just dumb plays. If it is MM, I’d like to kick him in the oompa loompas. If it was Ryan, he has learned – when down in the playoffs, you can’t take dumb flyers – their failure kicks you out into the off season. What NONE of us, as D3 stated, was how well satisfied we are with our draft development picks. If the staff thinks they (newly drafted guys) are good to go, then everybody will probably be allowed to go via FA. If not, we’ll keep a few. I think we must realize we have a vanilla offensive SCHEME. This is a coaches tendencies. If you watched Seattle, you saw a dynamic passing scheme with inferior players. We are not maximizing our offenses assets – that is entirely on the coaching staff. BUT, is the Zombie MM or HC MS?


January 25th, 2011
11:03 am


January 25th, 2011
11:13 am

Yes sir more no huddle and spread the feild more,we are the only team in the league not to run screens we need that back for that and another wes walker like wr, maybe harry will come back to true form this year coming up.


January 25th, 2011
11:19 am

D3, this may be a good seperate blog topic, but it is also relevant here. Where is the turnover/change on offense personnel-wise?

First, let’s run down Special Teams because it is the shortest:
K – Jason Elam -> Matt Bryant
KR – Adam Jennings/Norwood -> Eric Weems
P – The Franchise

Second, let’s look at the Defense:
DE1 – Abe
DE2 – Chauncey Davis -> JA98 -> Bierman
DT1 – Babs
DT2 – Trey Lewis -> Jerry -> Peters

MLB – Lofton
SLB – Nicholas -> Peterson
WLB – Brooking -> Nicholas -> Spoon

CB – Houston -> Grimes -> DRob
CB – Williams -> Owens -> Grimes

FS – Coleman -> Decoud
SS – Milloy -> Coleman -> Moore

Last, let’s look at offense:
QB – Ryan
FB – Ovie
RB – Turner
TE – Gonzalez
WR1 – Roddy
WR2 – Jenkins
WR3 – Robinson -> Douglas
C – McClure
LT – Baker
RT – Weiner -> Clabo
RG – Clabo -> Dahl
LG – Blalock

That may really be your answer there. Where is you infusion of new personnel or youth? To be fair, we did have 5 new probowlers. But it does seem that BVG is willing to experiment on Defense and play the best players like Moore. Where is that on Offense? The only debate I can remember was HD v. MJ and it does look like they got it right.


January 25th, 2011
11:44 am

This is a great article. I want to comment on it, but right now I am farting blood and I need to go to the bathroom.

Screen Pass

January 25th, 2011
11:47 am

Meh. More and more M. Leshoures name keeps coming up on other teams forums draft boards. Giants and Pats are started to be mocked with him as a top 20 pick. I’m not currently sold on Ingram as 1st round worthy, good back but I don’t think a tweener size back like him will flourish under MM. If Leshoure is scabbed do we take a flier on Torrey from Maryland? I like him but not sold on a 1st round with his route running and body catching. Blah, hurry up combine.

Bangkapi Ajarn

January 25th, 2011
11:51 am

uga_b – great stuff, thanks.

Ryan highly overrated

January 25th, 2011
12:15 pm

Let Ryan run the team!! what!! you clowns are on the kool aid for real!! this guy played At Boston collage!! Keep making excuses for the Guy!! he is just a regular QB that all !! you people have lost your minds! But you will see Just wait and you will see!! sickness of the mind and the heart!!


January 25th, 2011
12:24 pm


January 25th, 2011
12:53 pm

CB, good link but I saw it while looking for some far out draft predictions. I know it’s early but some one needs to start guessing, even if it’s totally preposterous.

DJ Sniper

January 25th, 2011
1:02 pm

Another great blog by D3. I suspect he will have this as a recurring theme until next season. He’s not the only person to comment on this. After the loss to the Packers, I saw several other articles on other websites about how conservative and predictable our offense was. I truly hope our coaching staff takes the time to read some of those articles during the offseason. That, combined with the way we lost in the playoffs, should ignite a fire under them and cause them to take a more aggressive approach to our offense.

Chop Buster

January 25th, 2011
1:39 pm

CB thanks for the link. One of the things they discussed and that I’ve been saying is the need to have more players from top programs that have played in championship games. Guys that know how to win and what it takes. With that said, how many guys do we have that fit this criteria on the Falcons? I believe Lofton played in a bowl championship and Ryan an ACC championship game of the top of my head.


January 25th, 2011
2:09 pm

You are going to upset Dled…. I believe he thinks Mularkey is the greatest thing since sliced bread and 13-3 provies it. Both he and the Falcons chat-running employees have defended Mularkey against fan complaints about lack of imagination and adjustments, and conservative play-calling all season.

I wish Mularkey would have found a new HC job, I really do. Smith is going to stick with him like Mora did with take-a-knapp, and as a result we are not getting enough out of the available talent.


January 25th, 2011
2:14 pm

Falcons sign Robert James to a 2 year contract, wow, signed off the practice squad to a 2 year contract, wow again. I understand per league rules, a player cannot spend 2 consecutive years on the practice squad without offering them a roster spot, or allow them to be a non restricted FA. Didnt know his progression was so far long. I remember him registering 2 sacks in the preason finale angainst the Jaguars. Hes a little undersized for a backer, at 5′11 230lbs. The 1 million dollar question now is, who will get the axe? will it be Adkins, Coy Wire or Peterson? Getting interesting.

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

January 25th, 2011
2:28 pm

A speedy scat-back who can catch the ball would do wonders for our offense.. Norwood ain’t the answer, so we need to look elsewhere.

It would sure add pressure to opposing linebackers and safeties if they had to cover a guy like that. As it is, their only focus is on our receivers and tight-ends. We are NO threat catching the ball out of the backfield. Snelling? Occasionally, but too sporadic to be a defensive scheme-changer..

Eric C.

January 25th, 2011
2:36 pm

Yes, the Falcons need to be faster and more explosive on offense in the playoffs. There is no doubt about that.

Having said that, this offense was built to keep a young defense off the field. When the Falcons play the Saints, Packers, Eagles or any other high-powered offense, their philosophy has been to keep the their porous defense off the field as much as possible. They finished in the top five in scoring and top 5 in defense in the regular season…so you can’t bash that philosophy too much.

The bigger issue is the defense. Remember how pleased TD was about the Falcons defensive performance in the MNF game against the Saints? Unfortunately, it turned out to be a flash in the pan. If not for the ball-control offense, the Falcons defense would be ranked near the bottom in most categories…and looking at the final 4 teams, they all were known for having a stellar defense.

Once the defense can be trusted to pressure and slow down a high-powered offense in the playoffs, then the offense will open up.


January 25th, 2011
2:39 pm

Mularkey implemented this offense specifically for Ryan. Its the same scheme the guy played in at Boston College and uses the same terminology. The Falcons offensive coaches did everything in their powers to ease the path for Ryan and there is no indication that Ryan has this mystical raw talent above this scheme.


January 25th, 2011
2:44 pm

Quick post I wanna try to get in while its on my mind. I know this would’ve probably been a better post to D3’s last blog, but I’ll just get it off my mind.

First, something I really thought about today was the Falcons defense vs. the defenses that were remaining of the final 4 (Steelers, Jets, Packers, Bears). Now, if you look at all four of those teams, they’ve all got big time playmakers all over the front and back ends of those defenses. Now, if you look at the Falcons defense, they’re still young. But, how many bigtime playmakers, guys that are known from coast to coast for making big plays, do the Falcons have on the defense? I’d say Abraham, and that’s about it. Grimes got a bit of national love throughout the season, but nobody’s ready to throw him into a conversation with Revis and company *yet*. My point would be, if you look each of those four teams, you could probably name more than a couple of playmakers right off the top of your head. If you posed that question to one of their fans about our Falcons and asked them to name some playmakers on the Falcons, I’m sure more than a couple of people would hesitate.

But, I don’t want people to lose me here. We may lack talent in certain areas, but there’s a clear cut change that needs to be made – and it starts with Mike Smith himself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for his head, actually nowhere near that. But, if you examine the Falcons approach on both sides of the ball, you’d find there’s a major component missing between coaches and players. The coaching staff is going to have to trust their players a lot more than they’ve shown they did this season. We’ve been through this before, but it’s really an achilles heel for this team at the moment. Mike Smith is going to have to take the training wheels off of this team as a whole – not just Ryan. Ryan’s the easy one to point to when talking about a lack of trust. But, even if you look at our philosophy defensively, it’s a very safe and conservative approach, and I’m assuming its mainly due to our youth paired with Smitty’s fear of losing the game due to a more aggressive philosophy. He doesn’t trust this young group enough to play it more aggressively. Either he doesn’t trust the secondary’s ability to hold up on an island, or he doesn’t trust the pressure packages. Nonetheless, if this team wants to get over this hurdle, we can’t be playing to “not lose”. That approach must be altered, at least on one side of the ball.

I know we’ve talked an awful lot about both coordinators this season, but I think it starts and ends with Mike Smith. He must self-assess his techniques and approach. This isn’t in any way a cop out for the coordinators. But, we all know Smitty gets the last say. His way did win us 13 games, so I don’t want to come off as if it was a complete failure, but, it did come back to bite us most when all the chips were on the table. Mike Smith has to trust his team more, and has to open things up on both sides of the ball. We can’t keep playing it safe hoping that our opponents do enough wrong to beat themselves. We saw what happens when the reverse happens – when our opponent plays a flawless games while we kill ourselves. This approach isn’t flawless.

Trust. Gotta let them grow up Smitty. Even if they make mistakes, it’s better to learn from the mistakes throughout the season and get better so you don’t get whopped in the playoffs.


January 25th, 2011
2:46 pm

The Falcons have the personnel to put up 30 points a game easy. But Mularkey rarely calls more than 1-2 routes per player and it’s a miracle if a ball is thrown more than 15 yards. I believe White can be a deep-threat. We might have a top-5 WR corps. And yes Gonzalez’s speed and hands are going down but he still way more than capable, we should draft a replacement. I think Mularkey is treating Ryan like a rookie, he was amazing in ‘08 but not sure if he can open an offense as it goes along. Heck, the play-calling might have been the best in ‘08.

I’ve been saying for 3 years the OL is full of psychopaths but not too talented and it shows v. elite DL’s. Keep Blalock if he doesn’t ask for much and more is given in the future. Keep Clabo for another year or two. I love Dahl but the reason I’m hesitant on keeping him is he was called for too many penalties at the end, don’t think it all has to do with his physical style. Yeah Boudreau has done a marvelous job with this unit. Maybe get that guy from Miss St.

The offense would be a lot better with a speedy RB, probably get one 3rd round. The biggest problem is Norwood is a walking injury. Mularkey could have Turner/Snelling run a few different plays.

I say it’s 80% coaching. The OL could be more talented and Norwood should be able to take 5 steps without tearing something. The rest is fine. I am happy we scored 414 points but we have the talent to contend for 500 points.

Chop Buster

January 25th, 2011
2:52 pm

Peyton, you mean to tell me Mularkey’s offense (from Pittsburgh) and the one Ryan ran at BC is the same?

Also, are you saying Ryan has reached a ceiling in this offense with your comment, “…and there is no indication that Ryan has this mystical raw talent above this scheme.”?


January 25th, 2011
2:53 pm


January 25th, 2011
2:56 pm

To try and draw a comparison regarding the defensive playmakers point I mentioned in my previous post:

Think about the NE Patriots. They haven’t had much postseason success since they lost the handful of defensive playmakers from their Superbowl years either. Think back, those great Patriot teams that were winning Superbowls, they had guys like Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymore. They don’t have that with this bunch they’ve got. They’re very much like the Falcons. Their defense is relatively young, and they don’t have enough impact-playmakers they can lean on in postseason games. The same holds true for the Falcons at the moment.

But, I also want to stress that the defensive philosophy could very well play into this. Guys like Dunta weren’t brought here to play 10 yards off the ball in soft zones. The coaching staff has to let these guys go. You see guys like Clay Matthews and Troy P. given the green light. Hell, for most of those guys on those respected teams that played in Championship weekend, the entire defensive unit was pretty much given the green light. The Falcons seem to be on yellow at the moment. It’s almost as if Smitty echoes to these guys, “Slow down…not so fast…” because he fears them making a crucial mistake rather than a big play. We’ve got to first upgrade positions that we can this offseason, and next season, we’ve got to let these guys loose – on both sides of the ball.


January 25th, 2011
2:57 pm


January 25th, 2011
3:06 pm

Go after Jonathan Baldwin from Pittsburgh!!! Speed and size. Move Jenkins to #3 WR.


Bangkapi Ajarn

January 25th, 2011
3:41 pm

I have seen two mocks so far that have the falcons taking this OT in the 1st round (which wouldn’t suck as long as it isn’t a reach). I want scatback, OT, and OLB in the 1st three rounds, so this would work out:

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado (Senior)
Height: 6’9″
Weight: 305