Saturday, August 29, 2015

Preseason Week 3 Preview: Falcons vs Dolphins

Tonight, the Atlanta Falcons will take on the Miami Dolphins in the third preseason game of the year. It has become an NFL tradition to designate the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the starting players. So tonight, expect the Dolphins and Falcons starters to play for at least the first half.

Here’s an offensive and defensive preview of tonight’s game.


Tevin Coleman's touchdown against Ohio State last season

Rookie running back Tevin Coleman will make his preseason debut tonight after recovering from a hamstring injury. Many Falcons fans are excited to see the guy who ran for over 2,000 yards in his final year at Indiana University. Coleman's ability to find the open running lanes and explode through them makes him such a dynamic player. His open-field speed is tremendous and he’s prone to break of explosive runs.

With Coleman stepping in as the starting running back, Terron Ward and Jerome Smith likely won’t see much playing time tonight. Ward and Smith have not been very impressive this preseason with a combined average of less than 4 yards per carry. However, the rookie running back will certainly be in for a tough test tonight as he faces a fearsome Miami front four starring defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Julio Jones touchdown vs Tennessee in Week 1 of pre-season

The Miami front four will test the Falcons passing game as well. The starting offensive line has done a great job of keeping Matt Ryan protected so far throughout the preseason. That protection has allowed Matt to complete 10/11 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns.


Jarvis Landry touchdown vs Green Bay last season

The Atlanta defense will face a decent challenge tonight against a talented Dolphins offense led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The young quarterback has been very impressive thus far in the preseason posting a (126.9) passer rating.

The Miami wide receivers will certainly test the Falcons secondary; especially with Desmond Trufant out. Defending receivers Jarvis Landry, Rishard Mathews, Kenny Stills, and Greg Jennings will serve as a great opportunity for cornerbacks Philip Adams, Robert Alford, and Jalen Collins to show how ready they are for the regular season.

Adrian Clayborn getting a first quarter sack 

As always, Falcons fans will want to keep an eye on the Atlanta pass rush. Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, and Tyson Jackson have done a great job pressuring the quarterback in the first two preseason games. If the Falcons first-team defense can generate an effective pass rush throughout their playing time tonight, Falcons fans should definitely be “fired up” for the regular season. RISE UP!!!!!

Falcons-Dolphins Game Information:

Game time: Saturday, August 29, 7 p.m. EST

Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Florida

TV Channel: CW69

Radio: 92.9 The Game (Wes Durham and Dave Archer)

Falcons-Dolphins game broadcast will air on NFL Network on Monday, August 31st at 5:30 a.m. EST

---- David Schiele (@Deacon_Schiele)

Friday, August 28, 2015

5 Things We Learned About The Falcons Against The New York Jets

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a pass during the first half of their game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

All I can say is wow! There was some good in the game and there was some bad in the game. We've got to see the Defense make a big impression and the offensive line displayed signs of progression (well, kinda). Luckily, there was a lot to take away and learn from this game.

1. First Team Defense:

Adrian Clayborn sack in the first quarter of the game against the Jets

If there was one thing to get excited about, it was the Falcons' first team defense. Paul Worrilow was actually covering really well and did great in space. Tyson Jackson, who was on my bubble list, has impressed many with ability to disrupt in the backfield, a result of losing weight this off­-season. Vic Beasley's presence was felt graciously when he was constantly beating linemen in one­ on one­situations and disrupting the quarterback's pocket for most of the evening, in once instance causing Adrian Clayborn to get a sack. This was an extremely good game for Beasley, who was constantly creating pressure.

Replacing Ra'shede Hageman, Jonathan Babineaux also flashed along with nose tackle Paul Soliai both were eating up lineman and disrupting the pocket. Also, in his first game action in a Falcons uniform, I was impressed with linebacker Brooks Reed come back and help set the edge in the run game. There were a few penalties in the secondary (Yes, started with Robert Alford) and set miscommunications but through it all,  it was a great display by the first team defense for the second straight week. Let's wish the starting unit a successful 2015 campaign.

2. First Team Offense:

Colin Mooney with a big time reception in the First Quarter

After watching the Falcons' starting offensive unit,  many defensive coordinators across the league are in awe. Matt Ryan looks better than ever in Kyle Shanahan's new offensive scheme with his sneaky athleticism, Julio Jones draws so much attention to any opposing defense that we saw newly acquired wide receiver Leonard Hankerson made some plays in the passing offense catching a touchdown pass, and Terron Ward got the start due to the injuries to Tevin Coleman, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman and didn't make a huge impact but he scored the opening touchdown. 

Collin Mooney, whom is battling with Patrick Di'Marco had an eye opening 60 yard reception which was awesome to see a fallback of his size run that hard and long. The offensive line had an OK day with the Matt Ryan behind them, but continued to regress with the backup quarterbacks. The run game would have been more explosive, but with Antone Smith, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman all out with Hamstring injuries, there isn't much to expect.

3. Backups:

Chris Ivory TD in the 2nd quarter

As a Falcons fanatic, it baffled me watching how the momentum of the game reversed the moment our backups entered the game early in the second quarter. I'm partly glad the game went the way it did; however, I was upset that we allowed 30 points. One of the main issues was the play of the backup quarterbacks. The efforts from the second and third defensive units weren't as encouraging.

Since the Jets game, the Falcons have acquired veteran quarterback Rex Grossman. Grossman is pretty familiar with Shanahan's scheme during his days as a backup quarterback in Washington. Sean Renfree and TJ Yates poor play didn't solve the question of who will become Matt Ryan's backup in the regular season. Over the final two pre-season games, with the addition of Grossman, we're going to stay tuned to this intriguing battle. 

Jalen Collins and Kevin White both were exposed by the Jets receivers throughout the game and hopefully should learn from the experiences. Despite the struggles with the backup units, a few players stood out in Friday's contest such as linebackers Joplo Bartu and Allen Bradford, and Defensive Tackle Warren Herring all made plays throughout the game, which provides faith in our depth.

4. Special Teams:

Devin Hester punt return

Matt Bosher has foot power! According to PFF ratings, he scored a ridiculous +4.2 on special teams and just goes to show why he's one of the league's best punters. Cornerback Kevin White registered a +1.5 in coverage despite having an underwhelming defensive performance. Veteran Devin Hester showed he's still an explosive factor in returning punts with a 62 ­yard return. It's truly amazing how much talent the team has in their skill players, but the question is how can we share the ball in all of the hands?

5.  Surprise of the game:

Paul Worrilow making a big stop on 3rd Down

Paul Worrilow was great in coverage. In my personal opinion, I've never seen him so fluid in his hips and speed to break on a ball. I know, I know, you'll hear many people state that it was against a New York Jets team with quarterback problems (not anything new) and building chemistry, but it was impressive to see the third year linebacker show improvements in coverage,helping the rest of the defense by calling the right plays and staying fundamentally sound. If he can keep up this kind of play throughout the regular season then we'll have the linebacker we've desperately needed over the past few seasons.

---- @Rxgilbert97 (Raekwon Gilbert)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An Outlook on the 2015 Season

The smell of a new season is in the air, a time when every team is (0-0) and theoretically every ones odds to make it to the big game are the same. Though our Atlanta Falcons are far from the worst team in the NFL, most analysts don't think we even have a shot to make the playoffs. So as the 2015 season approaches, let's take a look at 5 reasons why this year's Atlanta Falcons will be major contenders.

 Ladies and Gentlemen…. Mr. Matt Ryan:

Matt Ryan has been nothing short of solid for the Atlanta Falcons since he stepped on the scene in 2008. We're talking about a man whose very first NFL pass was a 62 yard touchdown, a man who has the most comebacks in the 4th quarter/overtime since 2008 (ICE), and a man who consistently performs at a high level despite shaky o-line play and a lack of a solid running game. The past two seasons Atlanta, especially across the offensive line plagued by injuries. As a result, Matt was sacked a whopping 75 times. Though he was sacked often, his high level of play didn't fall short. Ryan went on to throw for 4515 yards and 26 touchdown passes in 2013 (also without Julio Jones and a healthy Roddy White) followed by posting 4694 passing yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014. When Matt Ryan did have a healthy offensive line, a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White, and a defense that did just enough to hold everything together, he had a career year posting 4719 passing yards and a franchise record 32 touchdown passes. This year, Matt Ryan is primed for an MVP season and to lead his team to solid victories, both in the regular and post season.

Who Lee Oh (Julio) Jones:

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during the first half on Sunday. The Falcons’ victory kept them in a first-place tie with New Orleans in the NFC South. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Julio Jones is a threat to be reckoned with. The Atlanta Falcons number one receiver had the best season of his young career last year racking up 1593 yards, even though he missed a game. Jones is a top five wide receiver in the league and primed for another huge season. Falcons fans should get excited as Jones states that he is bigger, faster, and stronger than he's ever been. This spells trouble for defenses facing Jones and the Falcons this year as Jones should have help from a revamped rushing attack under coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Speaking of a running game….

A Legit Rushing Attack:

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman breaks loose for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo)

2011 was the last time  the Atlanta Falcons witnessed a 1000 yard rushing season by a running back. Since 2011, the absence a rushing attack and multiple changes in the backfield turned the Falcons rushing attack into one of the league's worst units. This off-season, Coach Quinn chose to add Kyle Shanahan to his staff as the Offensive Coordinator. Shanahan brings with him the zone-blocking-scheme, which benefits running backs with low expectations produce at a high-level. In 2012, Alfred Morris, a 6th round draft pick by the Washington Redskins, came into the scheme and rushed for 1613 rushing yards as a rookie. Yes, one thousand six hundred and thirteen yards. Though Morris made a lot of progression in a short period of time to have such an amazing season, the scheme played a major part into his success. Last season, Coach Shanahan would instill the scheme to use in Cleveland where his running back duo of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West racked up a combined 1280 yards on the ground. This year the scheme will undoubtedly feed the quick, shifty second year running back Devonta Freeman and the explosive 3rd round selection in the draft, Tevin Coleman, who currently have an ongoing battle for the starting position that will fuel this rushing attack. Balance is the last thing that opposing defenses would like to face considering how explosive the Atlanta Falcons passing attack can be when healthy.

Ease of Schedule… Who’s got it better?:

The Atlanta Falcons are blessed with the easiest schedule in the National Football League in 2015. The opponents that Atlanta will play have a combined win percentage of a whopping 40% from 2014. Yes, many of the teams on our schedule have made significant changes headed into this season, but it would be unsound to think that majority of our opponents would suddenly jump to become one of the NFL's best. Last year, Atlanta excelled in the NFC South with a dominant 5-1 record losing only to Carolina in the final game of the season. Each of our division rivals have serious questions that cannot be ignored. Will the departure of Jimmy Graham signal the end to the “scary good” Saints? Will Jameis Winston have heightened interception numbers as he transitions to the NFL? Which version of the Carolina Panthers will show up to play this year? And many more. Outside of our division opponents, the Atlanta Falcons will play the Eagles, Redskins, Vikings, Texans, Colts, Cowboys, Giants, 49ers, Jaguars, and Titans. The only match up that poses a major threat is the Week 11 matchup against the Colts in the GA Dome. 16-0?

Dan Quinn is not Mike Smith:

Dan Quinn, the new man with a plan in Atlanta

In the off-season, the Falcons acquired what could turn out to be one of the most important piece to the major turnaround in Atlanta. A change in what could be called the brain of the football team. Yes, Mike Smith took the organization by storm winning the AP Coach of the Year award in 2008, leading the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC Championship game in 2012, and racking up the most wins and highest win percentage of any head coach in Falcons history. But, the Mike Smith that we came to know and love disappeared the past two seasons making crucial in game mistakes (see vs. Detroit and vs. Cleveland 2014) and questionable personnel decisions. Once a tire goes flat, you have to change it. After a dismal 6-10 season leading to the departure of Mike Smith, Dan Quinn is coming to Atlanta to launch a new era of Falcons football. Coach Quinn brings a level of intensity, grit, and passion to the team that can be seen across country in the stingy Seattle defense. No one truly expects Quinn to come in take the Falcons to the Super Bowl in year 1, but if he can put together a solid defense that can keep major points off the board, and pairs that with the dynamic offense that the Falcons are well known for, it could be trouble for the league and Atlanta could return as one of the league's elite contenders.

--- Alphonso Thomas (@_fortheloveofAj)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Atlanta Opens The Pre-Season With A Win against the Tennessee Titans

Atlanta Falcons players prior to the win against Tennessee

As the 2015 NFL season draws closer, the new era in Atlanta under head coach Dan Quinn started on Friday Night with a 31-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans in the Georgia Dome. Dan Quinn was selected as the Falcons 16th head coach in franchise history replacing Mike Smith after a dismal 6-10 season. 

After the many changes, solid draft class, and new faces have went through a successful off-season and enters their final days of training camp, it was time for the fans to get a first glimpse of the Atlanta Falcons. We are a little under a month until the Falcons open their season on Monday Night Football, and all eyes were on the new look offensive and defensive schemes as well as how the team's draft picks would perform in their first game action of their young NFL careers.


Julio Jones first quarter touchdown vs Tennessee

Atlanta’s first string offense opened the game with an outstanding display of their passing attack under new coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme as the Falcons executed a 10 play, 91 yard drive in 4:50 as Matt Ryan completed a 13 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones at the 10:10 mark and the Falcons took a 7-0 lead. Matt Ryan was very efficient in his opening drive, going 6 for 6, 86 yards passing and a touchdown pass, pretty awesome for one drive. Julio Jones had a tremendous drive as well, catching four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. 

Justin Durant's interception on Marcus Mariotta

On Tennessee’s first possession, the Falcons defense held rookie quarterback Marcus Mariotta to six plays for only 15 yards of offense and newly acquired linebacker Justin Durant intercepted a screen pass intended for Bishop Sankey and returned to the Titans 9 yard line. The Falcons second offensive unit would not capitalize on the drive due to an offensive pass interference and a bad snap by Mike Person. Matt Bryant would nail a 45 yard field goal attempt to give the Falcons a 10-0 lead with 6:25 remaining in the quarter. Atlanta’s first unit defense would continue to excite the Georgia Dome crowd one more time as Jonathan Babineaux forced a fumble from Marcus Mariota leading to a Paul Worrilow touchdown on a 14 yard fumble recovery as the Falcons took a 17-0 lead with 3:22 remaining in the period. Atlanta’s second team defense would take the field and Mariota began driving the Titans down the field on his final drive of the game. 

Robenson Theresie's interception late in the 2nd quarter

Tennessee would continue to drive and capitalize for the first time in the game on a 10 play, 80 yard drive which ended on a Dexter Mccluster six yard touchdown run to trim the deficit to 17-7 with 13:06 remaining in the quarter. On the next Falcons possession, their drive would stall on a costly mistake as a six play, 34 yard drive would halt on a Coty Sensabaugh interception on a T.J. Yates pass intended for the 4th round selection Justin Hardy at Tennessee’s 44 yard line. 

Backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger and Tennessee’s second unit would again capitalize on a 7 play, 60 yards drive which took 3:51 as Rico Richardson would catch a 30 yard touchdown pass from Zach Mettenberger and the new 15-yard line PAT took effect as Ryan Succop missed his attempt trimming Atlanta’s lead down to 17-13 with 5:34 remaining in the half. Atlanta would finish the quarter strong with a 11 plays, 80 yard drive accumulating 3:57 as Antone Smith scored on a one yard touchdown run as the Falcons took a 24-13 lead with 1:37 remaining in the half. Tennessee’s next possession ended quickly after successfully converting two plays to put the Titans at Atlanta’s 48. Zach Mettenberger would throw an interception to Falcons safety Robenson Therezie at the Falcons 5 yard line before the half.


Allen Bradford tackle vs the Tennessee Titans in the 3rd quarter

Zach Mettenberger and the Titans offense would successfully move the football again on a 13 plays, 88 yard drive, which took away nearly half of the quarter with 7:19 as Antonio Andrews scored on a 1 Yard Rushing touchdown and Antonio Andrews rushed for a two point conversion as well trimming the Falcons lead to 24-21 with 7:41 remaining in the period. Atlanta’s offense would go three and out on their first possession of the half. Charlie Whitehurst would respond by leading the Titans offense into Atlanta’s territory on a 10 play, 44 yard drive that lasted for 6:04, taking up the remainder of the quarter as Ryan Succop executed 28 yard field goal to tie the game at 24-24 with 0:16 to go until the final period.


Tyson Jackson's sack on Marcus Mariota 

As the Falcons opened the fourth quarter with the football, Sean Renfree and company led Atlanta down the field on a 16 play, 86 yard drive which accounted for  7:41 and ended with a Michael Ford 1 Yard Rushing Touchdown to give the Falcons a 31-24 lead with 7:35 remaining in the quarter. On Tennessee’s following possession, the Titans offense led by Alex Tanney would advance to Atlanta’s 41 yard line only to end with a Stansley Maponga sack and a punt to the Falcons as well. The Falcons would run the clock out and secure their first pre-season win under new head coach Dan Quinn and staff. Now, we will take a look at some of the key takeways of Friday’s win, things to improve, and players to watch.


The Matt Ryan and Julio Jones show

Julio Jones touchdown reception in the first quarter

Ryan only played for one possession in Friday’s win, however, he made many fans proud with his stellar passing display. Atlanta's Matt Ryan completed all six passes for 86 yards on his only possession, including a 13-yard touchdown to Julio Jones. Yes, it’s pre-season and yes, it’s against the Titans; however, considering you have a new offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan and a new coach in Dan Quinn at the helm, we saw a glimpse of Atlanta’s offense continuing their stellar play as the 2015 season approaches. 

Julio Jones, is there anything further we should say about him? Absolutely. Throughout the off-season, we’ve heard many talk about his contract situation and how Arthur Blank would love to have him as a Falcon for life and Friday night, we saw why he’s one of the top receivers in the game on Friday. Similar to Ryan, Jones appeared in one series and had four catches for 61 yards, pretty good day at the office for the fifth year phenom out of Alabama. If this duo can stay healthy, Ryan to Jones will be one of the NFL’s most explosive quarterback-to-wide receiver tandems to watch.

Atlanta’s Starting Defense

Paul Worrilow fumble recovery for a touchdown

Entering Friday’s contest, many fans wanted to get a first glimpse at first round selection Vic Beasley and Dan Quinn’s new look 4-3 defensive scheme. In the first two series, Atlanta’s new look defense pumped the Georgia Dome crowd up as one play after he was sacked early in his first drive, rookie Marcus Mariota's short pass was intercepted by linebacker Justin Durant, whose 20-yard return set up a field goal. On Tennessee's next drive, the ball slipped out of Mariota's hand as he was preparing to pass. Linebacker Paul Worrilow scooped up the loose ball and raced 14 yards for a touchdown giving the Falcons a 17-0 lead. 

Atlanta’s defensive line caused plenty of havoc in the opposing rushing attack and also earned a few sacks, two turnovers, and a touchdown. Again, we know it’s just pre-season but if the Falcons defense, which finished as the league’s worst last season could improve slightly, Atlanta could be in for a nice treat throughout the season. On the defensive line, Vic Beasley wound up with just one tackle, but gave Tennessee’s offensive line a lot of issues even drawing a double team on the ensuing turnover. It's not every day that you hear a rookie defensive lineman receiving attention in his first full game action. 

Also, last season’s second round selection Ra’Shede Hageman caused havoc in the rushing attack and got a good amount of push into Tennessee’s backfield. Linebacker Paul Worrilow made some impressive decisions in his two series on the field as well, including his fumble recovery for a touchdown back in the 1st quarter. 

Atlanta’s Offensive Line

Although we saw the starting offensive line for only one series, the second biggest concern on the Falcons showed signs of improvement on Friday keeping the pocket clean for Matt Ryan his entire first series and only surrendered a sack throughout the game. The Falcons offensive line had many ups and downs during the 2014 season; however, with Shanahan’s zone blocking run scheme and another year of experience from some of Atlanta’s young linemen such as Ryan Schrader and Jake Matthews, a new offensive scheme could play a huge part in protecting Matt Ryan who has taken his fair share of hits throughout the last two seasons. Also, the Falcons offensive line could improve adding veteran Chris Chester during the off-season. The play of both lines will be critical to the success of the 2015 Atlanta Falcons.


Secondary Play

Rico Richardson reception for a touchdown
(Donn Jones Photography, AP Photos) 

Friday night’s game was featured without star cornerback Desmond Trufant who was resting after suffering from a sprained shoulder in Thursday’s training camp practice and his absence was very evident especially after the starting defensive unit sat for the rest of the contest.  Second round selection Jalen Collins from LSU suffered through some rookie pains in his first NFL game as Harry Douglas made a few receptions on him and he surrendered the 30 yard touchdown pass to Rico Richardson in the 2nd quarter. However, he had a few solid tackles in the run defense and also made a key breakup leading to the Robenson Theresie interception before half time. Although he had good and bad moments, he’s a rookie with potential to improve. Remember Desmond Trufant’s first camp?

Jalen Collins breakup leads to an interception
(Donn Jones Photography, AP Photos)

Now, take a look at how dominant of a force he’s been, so keep your hopes up for Collins. Another player whom struggled was second year player Dezmen Southward after making his transition from safety to the cornerback positon.  Southward struggled in coverage all game and that’s not the best way to make an opening impression on Dan Quinn; but, you have three more pre-season games to redeem his efforts. As the season approaches, the secondary will probably be another huge concern; however, with a young secondary, let’s hope for improvements throughout the pre-season.

Backup Quarterback Battle:

Matt Ryan and Sean Renfree talking with Kyle Shanahan

Although T.J Yates number didn’t look too bad as he posted 9 of 15 for 105 yards and an interception, he was not impressive by any means on Friday. From the two mishandled snaps and some awful decision making when throwing the football as well. 

Yates is considered the backup currently due to veteran experience.  However, many Falcons fans, including myself, don’t really trust Yates in the case (let’s hope not) that an injury happened to Matt Ryan.  Sean Renfree, who led the decisive touchdown drive, was 6 of 7 for 68 yards and was impressive throughout his time on the field in Friday’s win. 

From the accuracy to decision making in the game winning drive, Renfree is the guy I would trust to backup Matt Ryan if the season began tomorrow. Coach Dan Quinn said the competition to be Ryan's backup is still close, so that’s a key battle to watch throughout the pre-season. 

Running Back Depth/Injuries:

Aug 14, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Antone Smith (35) runs past Tennessee Titans linebacker Zach Brown (55) during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Titans 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Entering Friday’s game, Atlanta’s top two options at running back of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were already nursing injuries that both suffered during training camp; unfortunately, the Falcons depth at running back took another hit as Antone Smith did not return after suffering a hamstring injury on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Michael Ford had a decent outing and Jerome Smith did as well. Thankfully, Coach Dan Quinn stated that both were close to returning from their injuries, which is so imperative to Atlanta’s new-look offense under Kyle Shanahan.  


The Falcons opened pre-season with a victory to excite many Falcons fans about the beginning of a new era with Dan Quinn at the helm. It’s a long way to go, a lot to be determined as the season approaches; however, I am confident that the Falcons can build from Friday’s win as the journey to the first game of the NFL season is now three games away. Until next week, RISE UP!!!!