Atlanta Falls To 1-3

Ouch; 1-3 after a Sunday Night Football loss to the Patriots. 30-23, and it is debatable if it was really that close.

Do the Falcons recover from a 1-3 disaster? If Roddy White can ever return to form, will the Falcons start scoring? Of all the injuries that the Falcons are dealing with, a gimpy White seems to be the most significant.

What it means: The Falcons now find themselves in unfamiliar territory — on the outside looking in. Since 1990, only 9 percent of teams have made the playoffs after a 1-3 start. One of those 22 teams (out of 258) was the 2002 Falcons, who finished 9-6-1 and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a divisional playoff game after beating the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card game. But this Falcons team has a tall task, with teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers still remaining on the schedule. And the Falcons were supposed to be a Super Bowl favorite. [Source:]

It is hard to figure how a team touted as a Super Bowl contender suddenly fell to 1-3. History says the odds are stacked heavily against the Falcons now. According ESPN Stats & Information, only 9 percent of teams that start a season 1-3 have gone on to make the playoffs since 1990. In order to beat those odds, the Falcons have to figure out a way to score touchdowns — immediately. Atlanta leads the league with 18 red zone drives this season but is fifth worst in touchdown conversion (38.9) on such drives, according to Stats & Information. [Source:]

As Mark Bradley of the AJC says, “When the Falcons see red, they stop and lose

Let’s hope that hosting the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets on MNF is just what ATL needs to get things going in a hurry. Now for the “if'” – if the Falcons can close out the Jets, they will go to 2-3 at their bye week. After that, there are winnable games at home vs. Tampa Bay, and road dates in Arizona and Carolina. Let’s suppose the Falcons manage to pull off four straight wins, which would bring them to 5-3 facing a pivotal home match against Seattle.

I’m not going any farther with this guessing game; if ATL can’t pull off four straight starting this Monday night, I think they miss the playoffs. Even if they do manage to pull to 5-3, there are still no certainties. The playoffs are still obtainable, but unless Brees gets injured and missing significant time, the Falcons are not going to overtake the dreaded Saints.


Falcons Complacency Continues

As I wrote last week, the Falcons have fallen into a very disturbing pattern of starting strong, and then going uncomfortably numb. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC has the same assessment:

The Falcons continued their pattern of strong starts blowing leads. In this one, they blew leads of 10-0 and 20-10.

The 27-23 loss to the Dolphins hurts because this is a game the Falcons clearly had control of and should have won. Except the coaches don’t seem to understand that you have to play to win the game, don’t play for field goals.

F — Special teams: Harry Douglas can’t let the punt hit the ground and then he can’t fumble after getting crushed after picking it up. The Dolphins went in to tie the game after having a short field. Also, kicker Matt Bryant could have change the dynamics of the final drive by making the 35-yard field with under 5 minutes to play. The depleted Falcons need a boost from the special teams and didn’t receive it.

D — Coaches: The coaches had the players believing that “next man” hullabaloo. The offense came out straight hardcore and the defense was attacking the pocket. But someone has to be accountable for not sustaining the massive early flow and for the not coming up with the correct call to stop the Dolphins’ march to victory on three third downs.

If ATL was playing for a TD on that final drive, Matt Bryant would never have been called upon to try to give ATL a six point lead. The game would have been out of reach, but this has been typical of the Falcons. They play it too damn close to the vest.

Next up, the Falcons look for their season to implode against New England. A 1-3 start may be too much to overcome …


Nanny, Nanny, Boo the NFL

Earlier this week, FOXBusiness posted a great article by Steve Tobak – “Will Nanny rules Break the NFL?” This is a fun read, and while Tobak may not be correct on all points, he is insightful enough to point out that the NFL may be endangering their brand by trying to protect its owners.

Daddy, what’s a kickoff return? In 2011 NFL owners voted to move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, apparently to reduce the number of kickoff returns that result in injuries. But kickoff returns are exciting. Fun. I miss them. It’s the same thing with parents not letting their kids go out and play because they might hurt themselves. It’s nuts.

A lot of things the NFL is doing with rules right now are nuts, but for this season; I’m still a five seat season ticket holder. Not sure how long that will last. Besides the ever changing game rules, there is that looming new stadium in ATL, which will no doubt result in PSLs, which will certainly price me out of the game.


Falcons Pattern of Content

I probably should have titled this one ‘Falcons IR Report’ but more on that in a minute. For now we will focus on everything negative about the Falcons 31-24 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Dating back to last year’s playoff, the Falcons find themselves in a pattern of building a lead, only to throttle things back and either hold on for a win, or cave in for a defeat. Seahawks, 49’ers, Saints and now the Rams. It amazes me that the Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 lead only to let the Rams crawl back into the game after the Falcons offense went almost 23 minutes into the second half without a score. Just plain ridiculous.

While I love winning more than losing, and would certainly not call for Coach Mike Smith’s head, at some point you have to say that the team has taken on the nice guy mentality of their head coach. As an example, right before the half, the Falcons were moving for another score. With the game at 21-3, the Falcons could have made a statement by going for a TD. Instead, on second or third down (I forget which) and 14 seconds left and no timeouts, the Falcons opted for a field goal to put the game at 24-3.

No matter what, Coach Smith will get second guessed. Go for the field goal, and armchair QBs (cough … writing this article … cough) criticize for not going for a TD. If the Falcons when for a TD, and Ryan was sacked or turned the ball over, everyone is up in arms for not putting the ‘safe’ three points on the board. When in the Dome, I would rather try to get the TD and fail, instead of sitting back, accepting the field goal, and then going scoreless for 23 minutes. Championship teams have a finishing mentality; the Falcons are still not able to close out games.

The AJC had some pretty harsh grades for the Falcons running backs and o-line; of course I agree with the assessment.

F – Running backs: The running backs rushed 16 times for 36 yards for a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. “We ran the ball six times in the first half; we weren’t very successful at it,” Smith said. “The way the team tried to defend us is going to dictate how we are going to attack them.”

F — Offensive Line: The line didn’t protect Ryan again and didn’t open many holes in the run game. He was sacked twice and hit on eight other plays. They are getting Ryan hit on nearly 25 percent of every pass attempt. Against the Saints he was sacked or hit on 9 of 38 (25.7 percent) drop backs and 10 of 43 (23.2 percent) against the Rams.

The lack of finishing knowhow and the F grades really weren’t the low points. That honor belongs to the IR report. The Falcons suffered a rash of injuries; losing Jackson and Ewing seemed to put the Falcons off balance, ultimately abandoning all attempts at a rushing attack:

Here’s how long the injured players lasted against the Rams — Fullback Bradie Ewing played two snaps, running back Steven Jackson played nine snaps, cornerback Asante Samuel played seven snaps, Weatherspoon played 31 snaps and linebacker Kroy Biermann played 30 snaps.

Unfortunately Ewing and Biermann were lost for the season. For Ewing, it was the second season ending injury in as many seasons. The loss of Ewing will be a blow to the Falcons plans to have some semblance of a ground game; Ewing is a tough blocker and can catch out of the backfield. Losing Biermann is going to be a bitter pill to swallow; ATL could ill afford to lose anyone on an already suspect defense. The d-line has been woefully inadequate, and now it will fall to the depths of being downright pathetic.

If the Ewing and Biermann announcements weren’t bad enough, Sean Weatherspoon will be out until week 11, which may be the one blow to the defense that is too difficult to overcome.

Up next; the Dolphins in Miami. Go Falcons!


Falcons Fall To 0-3. Does The Preseason Matter?

The Falcons looked downright awful last night against the Titians, who will not be doing much of anything this year in the AFC South. On the flip side, there have been a handful of pendants that are picking the Falcons to win the NFC South; Super Bowl or bust!

The Falcons Super Bowl aspirations will come to a screeching halt if the Falcons makeshift o-line doesn’t marginally improve. Giving up 5+ sacks a game is a good way to send Matt Ryan to the sidelines.

The concerns about the starting offensive line aren’t going to go away. Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked five times.

My predictions for the 2013 season: Before it is all said and done, Matt Ryan will end up missing some time if the o-line is not sorted out in a hurry.

The reason question is does the preseason matter? If I’m not mistaken, last year the Falcons went 1-3 in the preseason, had a 13-3 regular season, and came within 10 yards (and a defensive collapse) of making the Super Bowl.

The general thinking going into the regular season is that the Falcons offense will be unstoppable, which will compensate for an underwhelming defense. Great theory if the o-line can keep Ryan injury free.


Falcons New Stadium Drama Marches On …

As the Falcons inch closer to finalizing a deal for a new stadium with the use of tax dollars, one expensive question hasn’t played out in the media. Will the Falcons move to a PSL system? I feel compelled to point out that this question must be put on the table before there is any vote to apply tax dollars to potentially stand up a replacement for the Georgia Dome.

After a lengthy process that included switching plans midstream, a deal to build a $948 million retractable-roof football stadium in downtown Atlanta could be reached by year’s end, the Georgia World Congress Center said.

I have been a big proponent of a downtown location, retractable-roof stadium. In Georgia this just makes sense; can’t imagine sitting in the sweltering sun for the stupid preseason games that are included in season ticket packages, September football is always hit or miss weather wise, and I really have no intentions to watch a Falcons game in the cold November rain.

The turn in talks toward a retractable-roof stadium means the Falcons’ original preference of an open-air facility, which would have been home to the NFL team while the Dome continued to house events that required an indoor facility, is off the table.

While an indoor/outdoor, retractable-roof facility would make the Dome unneeded, Poe acknowledged “it’s a valid concern” how the public will react to the idea of demolishing a stadium that opened just 20 years ago. [Source:  AJC – Lost the exact link …]

Honestly, the Dome is not that bad, but I think it would be extreme stupidity, not to mention fiscally irresponsible, to maintain two downtown stadiums. As far as the Dome goes, my seats, while expensive, are very close to the action. Not sure how this would play out with a new stadium, but I imagine my seats wouldn’t be as nice, and would cost a lot more, potentially ending my relationship with the Falcons as a season ticket holder. And there is still that pesky question of PSLs.

This AJC editorial hits the nail on the head:

Kicking in public dollars by the hundreds of millions is the cost of doing business with today’s sports mega-franchises. It’s akin to the economic development incentives governments routinely dangle in front of job creators to help seal deals.

To argue otherwise is pretty naive in this day and time. If Atlanta doesn’t do it, some other city in search of an NFL team will be waving a lucrative aid package. Just ask cities that have lost sports teams.

Once upon a time in my younger days, when my wife and I were freshly married, and she was doing the law school and getting started as a lawyer thing, we lived in the metro ATL area. Of course since we were starting out we couldn’t afford luxury items like season tickets. Not that I can now either, but I digress.

The point I wanted to make is that while the biggest economic benefit to a new stadium for the Falcons to call home is to the city of ATL, having the Falcons in Georgia has financial benefits across Georgia. As the editorial said, you have to pony up to play, and the only way to land a Super Bowl is to go all in with something big and fancy.

I just hope that the trick pony doesn’t come with PSLs attached!


Bengals – Falcons (Preseason Week 2)

The Falcons dropped another preseason game, this time 24-19 to Cincinnati. Much like last week, at least our starters beat their starters, 13-10 at halftime.

The offense continues to remind me of a modified hybrid West Coast style short passing dink and dunk attack. As long as they continue to mix in Julio deep and threaten with Roddy White, this style can be successful, especially with the newfound emphasis on passing to the running backs.

I’ll cheat a little and jump straight to Pat Yasinskas’ (ESPN NFC South Blog) observations.

Ryan’s numbers (18-of-21 for 174 yards and a touchdown) look spectacular and he completed his first 11 pass attempts. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Ryan’s first eight passes were mostly short ones and he didn’t have a long completion until connecting with Roddy White for a 24-yard gain on his ninth pass. He followed that with a 21-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez and later had a downfield completion in traffic to Julio Jones. Ryan seemed under pressure early, but the offensive line seemed to settle down as time went on. Ryan also missed slightly on a deep throw for Jones. The ball was well thrown, but it went off Jones’ fingertips.

Ryan was sharp for the second week in a row. As mentioned, Ryan just missed Julio, but really, Julio should have pulled it in. Ryan also missed a goal line slant in the endzone that should have been a nice TD.

All in all, nothing to complain about; Ryan has looked fantastic thus far. I just hope he keeps it up when the games start to count!

Jerry wasn’t the only interior lineman producing pressure. Jonathan Babineaux sacked Dalton, but the play was nullified when Babineaux was called for a face-mask penalty. I watched the replay several times and saw no indication that Babineaux’s hand ever got close to Dalton’s face mask. I think the replacement refs botched that call.

The point here is that the d-line looks marginally better, but everyone knows blitzes and offensive packages are vanilla at best in the preseason. For the second week in a row, the replacement refs were awful.

The Falcons appear to be very serious about throwing more to their running backs. Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers and Lousaka Polite each caught passes.

If it works in Madden, it should work in real life.

Tailgate Experience
For the second consecutive week, there wasn’t much of a tailgate. The boys decided that 90F was too dang hot for grilling, while my wife told me she was too sweet to sweat; have to agree with my wife on this one because she is sweet.

We did the Hooters thing on the way up; boys got an eyeful, dad was careful not to gawk, and before mentioned sweet wife tried her best not to stew. I survived the Hooters experience unscathed, and managed to put us in the back of Lot A for about 45 minutes of tailgating – drinking a couple of cold ones, tossing around a football with my three boys, playing a tailgating ring toss game, and just in general, enjoying some quality family time.

Lot A is always sketchy at best; police presence and lot patrol personnel was limited. Thankfully the rift-raft was minimal; should be par for the course September 17, when Monday Night Football comes to town for the Falcons Dome opener hosting Denver.

Go Falcons!


When Rookies Go Down …

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Ravens-Falcons recap, when I saw Bradie Ewing go down with an apparent knee injury, my first thought was injury settlement time. Turns out that was close to the mark, as the ajc is reporting that Ewing is lost for the year.

“Unfortunately, we have to announce that Bradie Ewing will miss the entire season after sustaining a knee injury in last night’s contest,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “As a result, we will be placing him on injured reserve tomorrow. Bradie is a talented player and I know he and our training staff will do everything they can to ensure a full recovery.”

Ewing, a former walk-on at Wisconsin, was a fifth-round (157th overall) pick. He was expected to compete with Mike Cox for the starting fullback position. His acquisition led the Falcons to release Pro Bowler Ovie Mughelli.

Too bad; I hope the kid has a speedy recovery. Injuries can happen at any given time – be it practice, preseason games, or when the games actually start to count. I just hate it when someone was lost on a meaningless play. It’s not as if the Falcons had to play Ewing, or anyone else for that matter, on special teams. Instead they could have thrown out potential practice squad players, guys hoping and praying to make an impression on the coaching staff; anyone except the potential starting FB and ML (i.e. Akeem Dent).


Ravens – Falcons (Preseason Week 1)

It’s preseason; offenses are not sophisticated and the defenses are vanilla. So what can the Falcons take from their 31-17 loss to the Ravens?

Our starters beat their starters 17-7. Except for an absolute stupid looking mistake in the Red Zone, early on Matt Ryan (9 for 13, 155 yds and 1 TD) looked fantastic, and Julio Jones looked like the real deal bringing in 6 catches for 109 yards and a TD, all in the 1st qtr.

The offense really reminds me of a semi West Coast flavor, without the slants, and of course the Falcons can’t spell screen pass. Lots of short patterns, but I expect that they will open things up once the games actually count.

Injury Report
The injury report will merit closer inspection:

Atlanta starting linebacker Akeem Dent (knee) [sic – head injury] and rookie backup fullback Bradie Ewing (head) [sic – knee injury] left the game with injuries.

Ewing hurt his right knee when blocking on Dominique Franks’ 45-yard punt return midway through the first quarter. Ewing, a fifth-round pick from Wisconsin, was helped off the field before being placed on a cart and driven to the locker room.

Dent walked off the field with the head injury he suffered when blocking on a Falcons punt. He is expected to take over at middle linebacker after Curtis Lofton signed with the Saints and Lofa Tatupu suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in training camp.

When I saw Ewing go down, I figured it was injury settlement time. Hopefully it is not that bad.

The Dent injury left we wonder WTF the Falcons coaching staff was thinking. Why on earth did they have their potential starting middle LB playing on special teams in a preseason game no less?!? What a boneheaded move! Coach Mike Smith disagrees with me; apparently the Falcons starting middle LB is a “base” player and a key contributor on special teams. No regrets from Coach Smith. Probably. Hopefully Akeem is OK; he played really well,

Stepping In For Ryan …
The backup QB situation is very disconcerting. In limited action, Chis Redman looked horrible, and John Parker Wilson isn’t much in the way of an NFL ready backup. I’m not sure if Redman is really cheap, or if there is nothing in the way of backup QBs on the market.

Tailgate Experience
It wasn’t much of one. Because of the weather, we decided to stop for some burgers on the way to the Dome. That turned out to be a good plan; while the rain did clear up, our tailgate would have been pounded. Instead we were able to say dry, and still ended up with some time to have a few cold ones one throwing around the football with the boys.

For those of you that don’t know, preseason tickets cost the same amount as regular season seats. If you want to pony up for season tickets, you end up paying for 10 games (2 preseason and 8 regular season games). Same for parking passes, which really does stink considering my pass is $20 per game, but the lot was only charging $5.

Making matters worse, as always, there was very little security presence in Lot A; there never is to be honest. Thankfully there weren’t as many vagrants as is typical during the regular season.

While season ticket holders pay full price for the privilege of preseason games, apparently the Falcons front office doesn’t consider preseason games to be worth their effort. No Falcons Landing or any other interactive fan experiences were made available. Why? Probably because everyone knows preseason games are only going to be lightly attended, which brings me back to my point that the Falcons really should discount these tickets if they are not going to support the games with the full fan experience.

Free T-Shirts Bring Out the Worst in Humanity
Or something like that; so says my wife. In the 3rd quarter, the Falcons staff made it to our mezzanine section (231) to hand out free t-shirts. Of course everyone is going nuts – over a free t-shirt (black, Defend the Dome flavor).

I manage to grab one and give it to my oldest son. The folks passing out the shirts see this gesture (“… this dad must rock …”) and attempts to give one to one of my other boys, but some jerk jumps in front of my 10 year old and grabs the prized shirt.

Repeat; the shirt passer-outer is clearly PO’ed at this point and hands me the shirt to give to my boy, and another kind lady gives us one for my 5 year old. We even manage to get mom one too, but not so much for dad, which is OK, because my boys have million dollar smiles on their faces, which is what it is all about.

The staff did a great job of trying to find all the kids in my section to make sure they got shirts; it was clear the jerks were out in full force and willing to steal candy (err, shirts) from the children. Free t-shirts really do bring out the worst in humanity.


UGA to Win SEC East?

That is the prediction out of the SEC Media Days event. Of course last year SI picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, and you see where that prediction got this diehard Falcons fan.

In this case, hopefully the media got it half right; Dwags to take the East and claim the SEC Crown on their way to their first National Championship in 30-some-odd-years. One can dream, right?


Why I’m Excited this NFL Football Season

[Editor’s Note: My 13 year-old son takes a turn contributing to the Recycle Bin with his thoughts on the upcoming 2012 NFL Season. Sounds like he may put his season ticket to good use … You can find Joshua online via his PSN account jscFALCONS.]

I’m excited about this NFL season for a lot of reasons, but here are the things I think will be the most exciting. The Falcons are my favorite team so, of course I’m excited about them. They also have an interesting schedule. I’m also excited to see how Peyton Manning will do on a new team after missing a season due to neck surgery. Finally, I think it will be exciting to see how Tim Tebow will do with the NY Jets.

I’m very excited for the Falcons this season. They have an interesting schedule. The most notable teams are: NY Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Manning- led Denver Broncos and of course, their division rivals, Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers. I’m excited about this schedule because the NY Giants won the Super bowl, the Dallas Cowboys are getting better, Peyton Manning is on the Denver Broncos and the divisional games are usually big games.

I think that it will be exciting to see how Peyton Manning will do on the Denver Broncos. He has never been on a team other than the Colts. He missed last season due to a neck surgery [he had 4 surgeries total] which he is still recovering from. Will he be just as good as he was before? Will he even be cleared to play? I think it will be exciting to see.

Tim Tebow is now on the NY Jets. I think it will be exciting to see how he does. Last year, he won 7 out of 11 games and even a playoff win. The Broncos lost to the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. Now, he is competing with Mark Sanchez for the starting job on the Jets. Mark Sanchez will probably be the starter but, Tebow could always sneak up in there. Tebow can get the wins while Sanchez has been struggling lately. Tebow will most likely be used for wildcat plays. I think it will be exciting to see how he does.

So, I think it will be exciting to see how the Falcons, Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow will do this year.


Falcons – Asante, Strength of Schedule, and Random Stuff

After my spectacular draft coverage, I would be remiss not to mention that that the Falcons improved their defense immensely the day before the draft by turning a lowly 7th round pick into a top-flight CB, courtesy of a deal to land former disgruntled Eagles CB Asante Samuel.

Seriously, where else are you going to get this much known quality for a 7th round selection? While Asante comes at a price tag far above a typical 7th round pick, adding him to the Falcons’ secondary should instantly have a positive impact on the defensive line. If nothing else, an extra second or two of shutdown coverage by Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, and Asante Samuel should result in a few more coverage sack gifts for Abraham, Edwards, and company.

Thankfully, Asante was willing to rework his contract to make things a little more cap friendly for the Falcons.

Falcons Get “Easy” Schedule
In my opinion, the NFC South is very strong top to bottom. Of course the Saints, even with all their offseason cheating coming to light, will remain tough. Panthers are on the rise. You have to think that the Buccaneers are not as bad as their record last year indicated, plus they have had a great off season via free agency and the draft.

With that said, the current strength of schedule rankings for the 2012 season show that Atlanta should have an easy path to the playoffs. The Falcons are at the back-half of the league in terms of strength of schedule, tied for the 24th easiest schedule. Their 2012 opponents had a 125-131 Win/Loss record, which is good for a .488 winning percentage. They will only pay 4 “quality” opponents (teams with 9 or more wins in 2011).

As a card carrying Falcons fan, I could give a crap about a speculated easy schedule; anything to put ATL over the top.

Falcons National Coverage
Speaking of the 2012 schedule, the Falcons will have four appearances on National television. Home Prime Time dates with Denver, Dallas, and the Saints, and a pre-Christmas Saturday night date in Detroit.

I’m excited about the schedule, although I wish the Falcons could land a couple of idea 4PM tailgate kickoffs. Tailgate highlights include:

Sept. 17 vs. Denver (8:30 p.m., ESPN): After playing 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and missing last season, Manning is trying to revive his career.

Nov. 4 vs. Dallas (8:20 p.m., NBC): Former Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking’s celebration got out of hand after the Cowboys defeated the Falcons 37-21 on Oct. 25, 2009.

Nov. 29 vs. New Orleans (8:20 p.m., NFL Network): The Saints should have their players back from any Bounty-gate suspensions.

Dec. 16 vs. New York Giants (1 p.m., Fox): The defending Super Bowl champions have the most difficult schedule in the league based on opponents’ 2011 records.

I have never seen Oakland or Arizona in person, so that should be fun. Same for the Giants. For the second year in a row, we close out the season at home against Tampa Bay; hopefully we are resting our starters.

The Falcons schedule is full of quirks, including never playing consultative home or away games. I hate playing New Orleans twice in Nov; I thought that a Christmas week matchup would become a scheduling staple. A week 7 bye week (Oct 21) seems a little early, but it could be worse. Plus it gives me time for an Oct beach trip!

Go Falcons!


ATL 2012 Draft Rounds 5-7: Falcons Add Depth and Captains

With nothing to do in the 4th round … the Falcons front office had plenty of time to firm up there strategy for the last day of the draft. It’s apparent that the Falcons went after need (and depth) instead of going the “best player available” route.

So how did the Falcons do? I haven’t looked for different draft “grades” – I’m sure I will later today, especially as all the big boy media outlets start letting fans know their teams did in the 2012 draft.

My overall thoughts are the Falcons addressed their glaring needs on both sides of the ball, and in the process managed to land the top rated center and the only true fullback invited to the combine. The Falcons four selections in rounds 5-7 include three team captains; the Falcons continue to build around “character” which is OK in my book. Overall, while unspectacular, the Falcons had a pretty good draft.

Bradie Ewing – FB Wisconsin
Ewing, a team captain at Wisconsin, was taken in the 5th round, and was the only true fullback invited to the Combine.

Atlanta’s selection of Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing in the fifth round might not seem like a big deal on the surface. For now, Ewing is probably nothing more than a special-teams player. But the Falcons also were looking a year or two down the road when they made this pick. Veteran fullback Ovie Mughelli is coming off a major injury, and he’ll turn 32 in June. It was time to find someone to groom as Mughelli’s eventual successor.

Going into the offseason, you had to consider that Ovie Mughelli would be a cap causality. I’m surprised he has last this long into 2012 without some sort of contract restructure.

Jonathan Massaquoi – DE Wisconsin
I admit I know next to nothing about Massaquoi other than having some recognition of his last name.

Massaquoi is from Lawrenceville and played at Central Gwinnett High School. He is a cousin of former Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and NFL tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.

“Troy is a building program,” Massaquoi said. “We had five straight conference championships. We went for our sixth one this year, but fell short. With Troy producing defensive ends like Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware, hopefully I can be put into that conversation and follow their tradition.”

I like Massaquoi’s confidence, and the Troy connection, if he is anything like Osi or DeMarcus would make Massaquoi a six round steal.

Charles Mitchell – S Mississippi St.
Another team captain, Mitchell probably projects as a special-teams player; I doubt he will be anything else in the immediate future.

Travian Robertson – DT South Carolina
The Falcons selected Travian Robertson, yet another team captain, with their last pick (7th round; 249 overall). Based on his size and bio, I think Robertson has a realistic shot to get a few reps at DT and contribute on special-teams.

What does it all mean?
The Falcons intend to never fail to convert on another 4th and short situation. In other words, the Falcons bulked up on both sides of the line, while building for the future.


Falcons Draft 2012: Day 2 O-Line Help

After sitting out of 1st round action Thursday night, the Falcons went to work Friday, hell bent on improving their offensive line.

The Falcons pulled in Wisconsin center Peter Konz with their 2nd round pick (55 overall). Not knowing jack about Big 10 football, except that their mommas beef up their boys, I’m not sure what to expect from Konz. Knowing that longtime center Todd McClure has 1-2 years left in the tank, this seems like an insurance move for the future. Can Konz help now?

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is Konz can play both guard and center,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We have him listed as a guard-center.”

Konz, 6-foot-5 and 314 pounds, was projected to go late in the first round by most draft analysts. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper had him rated as the top center in the draft.

“He has no peers in this draft,” Kiper said.

So Konz is a value pick; top center in the draft. Is he injury prone?

Not to say that the 23rd pick of Round 2 isn’t be a big man. He’s Peter Konz, who played center at Wisconsin but who was labeled a guard by the Falcons. He’s 6-foot-5. He weighs 314 pounds. He missed games in all three of his college seasons: Once with blood clots in each lung, twice with sprained ankles. For those holding memories of Peria Jerry, the Falcons’ No. 1 pick of 2009 who’d been injured at Ole Miss and whose NFL career hasn’t taken flight, you have your quibble.

On the plus side: Konz is a value pick who could help fill a crying need. He was ranked the draft’s best center. (Sorry, Ben Jones.) ESPN ranked Konz the 41st-best player available; NFL Draft Scout 300 slotted him 37th. Both Pete Prisco and Clark Judge of CBS Sports had him going in Round 1. When you’re sitting at 55, that’s not a bad find. And it’s better still when you recall the three failed fourth-and-1’s that defined the Falcons’ 2011 season.

If Konz adds depth this year, and can fill in at center and guard, while taking over for McClure next year, this will turn out to be a great pick.

Lamar Holmes (T – Southern Mississippi)
After trading back a few spots, the Falcons landed tackle Lamar Holmes in the third round with the 91 overall pick. For their troubles, Baltimore sent ATL a 5th round pick (No. 164, 29th of the round).

Holmes looks more like a project, but if he brings some nasty aggressiveness that was sorely lacking last year, maybe he will turn out to be the surprise pick of the draft. One can always dream, right?

Go Falcons!


Falcons – Saints

As a lifelong, card-carrying Falcons fan; I am obviously biased when it comes to anything Saints related. My second favorite team is whoever is playing the Saints. That sort of thing; the stuff that makes rivalries so enjoyable.

When it comes to Bounty-Gate, I have no sympathy with Saints and fully agree with the punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Obviously the Saints fan disagrees, but really, who are they kidding? It is one thing to keep “plays for money” on the “down-low;” the Saints went over and beyond.

The punishments for the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program are severe and unprecedented. Goodell has suspended coach Sean Payton for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight games of the 2012 season, assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six games and banned former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely. He has also hit the Saints with a $500,000 fine and taken away their second-round draft picks for 2012 and 2013. The league also has said 22 to 27 players were involved and discipline for them will come soon.

No question this is severe, but has Goodell really intentionally destroyed the franchise, like so many New Orleans fans seem to think? No, he hasn’t and anyone that thinks that simply is shooting the messenger — the guy who had the nerve to tell them that their beloved head coach and team weren’t quite as perfect as they had been made out to be.

Falcons Compensatory Splash
In Falcons news, due to salary cap reasons, or just “our coordinators sucked last year” reasons, the Falcons have not made a splash of any sort in free agency this year. I don’t rate the signing of previously injured LB Lofa Tatupu and OG Vince Manuwai unless they both prove healthy and win starting positions. Bottom line – the Falcons like their current roster and think new coordinators will put them over the hump.

Falcons get an extra 7th Round pick; if they are lucky this pick will turn into a practice squad player, or better yet a sometimes active roster special team player that may manage a 3-4 year career. In other words, the extra compensatory pick is just above not being totally worthless.

Go Falcons!