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Tag:Matt Ryan
Posted on: August 13, 2011 8:48 am
Edited on: August 13, 2011 9:02 pm
 

Verdict in on Falcons Julio Jones: 'Outstanding'

Posted by Will Brinson

The Falcons made a bold move on draft day when they jumped 21 spots -- in a massive deal with Cleveland -- to land Julio Jones out of Alabama. At the time, we wrote that he "better be a home run" to justify the move, and we still stand by that.

Fortunately, the early results are in and Jones looks like a pretty solid draft pick for Atlanta. Granted, Friday night's loss against Miami was only one game of the preseason, but he drew some nice compliments from usually reserved Falcons coach Mike Smith.

"I think Julio got indoctrinated into what the NFL is about and in terms of the plays he made, I think they were outstanding," Smith said, per Jay Adams of the team's official website. "I think all three touches were for first downs. He showed some skills that we saw when he was playing at the University of Alabama, and we'll watch the tape I think we'll find some things that we've got to correct.

"We all made mistakes, starting with me in terms of the game management and all of that. I really thought that Julio did some good things."

He did indeed. Jones looked extremely explosive in the early going, catching two balls for 43 yards and taking a reverse around the right side for 12 yards.

Jones was targeted four times in total during the first three series that spanned about 12 minutes of the first quarter -- the Falcons first two offensive plays of the preseason targeted Jones but Matt Ryan missed the first throw and Vontae Davis was draped on Jones during the second one.

Yeah, it's safe to say that they wanted to not just establish Jones but their "new" identity as an explosive offensive team early on. It didn't work -- at first.

During the next two series, the Falcons marched down the field and punched it in the end zone, once with a Michael Turner score and then again when Harry Douglas made a fantastic catch on an even better throw from Ryan.

Those two possessions featured Jones being integrated much more seamlessly, particularly when Jones was able to take short passes from Ryan for big gains.

It's the explosive playmaking that Atlanta wanted to add this season and if Jones first few series are any indication of his ability, it certainly will be outstanding.

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Posted on: June 20, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 9:33 pm
 

If Vikings sign veteran QB it will be as a mentor

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The market for Donovan McNabb appears to be shrinking. Even after the Vikings selected quarterback Christian Ponder 12th overall in the April draft, conventional wisdom figured Minnesota would acquire a veteran quarterback to handle the starting duties for the upcoming season and serve as a bridge to the Ponder era.

Earlier this month we wrote that McNabb probably wasn't a good fit for the Vikings because Minnesota just got rid of one old-timer, and when you lose your job to Rex Grossman, that's shorthand for "he'll never be NFL-ready again … ever."

But there will be plenty of veteran QBs looking for new homes once the lockout ends. It's just that whoever lands the gig probably won't be the starter for the entire season. At least that's what Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com thinks. In response to a question about whether Ponder or QB Joe Webb would play more in 2011, Wobschall offered this:

"It’s far too early to formulate an opinion on which guy should be the starting QB for the Vikings in 2011, but I think the goal is for either Ponder or Webb to end up starting games this year, not a veteran. Any veteran the Vikings add will be brought in to help mentor the young QBs and literally teach them how to practice and how to play the position in the NFL."

If that's the job description, we're guessing Kerry Collins is out.

But this isn't the first time we've heard this. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in May that "ideally, I'd like for [Ponder] to be ready to go when we play San Diego (on Sept. 11). … That would be the ideal situation -- we've got our Matt Ryan, we've got our (Joe) Flacco, we've got our (Mark) Sanchez right here. But because of the uncertainty of the offseason, it's just hard to determine exactly how you want to approach it. So, we need a little more clarity on what this offseason's going to be like."

And that's the biggest difference; we're in the middle of a lockout, which means no OTAs or minicamps.

Wobschall does say that "if the Vikings bring in a veteran QB yet this offseason, that veteran could end up starting games early in the season, but ultimately I think the Vikings are going to push hard for either Ponder or Webb to end up starting the most games."

For now we're just waiting for the owners and players to agree on a new CBA.

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Posted on: June 17, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Finally a resolution to Manning vs. Brady debate

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Sports Illustrated has released its list of the 50 highest-earning American athletes, and eight NFL players made cut. If nothing else, it provides resolution to question that comes up every time the Colts play the Patriots: who's better, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady

If we're going by the amount of money they can stuff into their respective man purses, Peyton's the big winner.

Manning, who ranks fourth on SI's list and first among NFL players, is set to make $23 million in salary (expected haul based on his 2011 contract) and $15 million in endorsements for a grand total of $38 million in 2011 earnings.

Brady ranks third among NFL players after Matt Ryan ($32M/$450K/$32.7M) and will pull down just $20 million plus a measly $10 million in endorsements.

Of course, Tom has three Super Bowl rings to Peyton's one.  Oh, and he's also married to Gisele Bündchen, the highest-paid supermodel for seven years running who happens to be worth nearly ten figures.  

But even if Brady loses points for, sigh, this -- or showing up in public looking like he just stepped off the set of Fantasy Island (lower left -- he was actually at the Kentucky Derby), or succumbing to Bieber Fever (lower right -- that was at a Celtics game) -- at the end of the day, he's still going home to Gisele. He could look like Vince Wilfork dressed up as Bill Belichick and he'd still be better off than every other man on the planet, including Peyton. 



As for the other NFL names to crack the top 50, here you go:
Remember what Plaxico Burress said recently about the Eli Manning-Mark Sanchez dynamic?

"Eli has won a championship, and the crazy thing about it is that Mark Sanchez almost gets more pub than the world champion quarterback," Burress said. "And I'm looking at it from afar. The man went out and led the organization to a Super Bowl, but for some reason I guess Mark Sanchez is supposed to be better than the guy that has already won one."

Turns out that holds true for salary and endorsements, too.

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Posted on: June 9, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Michael Turner's best days could be behind him

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Running backs are fungible. We've been beating that drum for years now, and basically the theory goes something like this: Don't draft a running back with a top 15 pick unless you're certain he's the next Barry Sanders or Jim Brown.

There are exceptions, but the thinking is that teams can find productive backs in later rounds (and often among the undrafted), which frees them up to use early picks on positions that are tougher to fill -- like left tackle and cornerback. This applies to free agency, too. An example that immediately comes to mind: the Seahawks re-signing Shaun Alexander to an eight-year, $62 million deal in 2006, six years into his career. At the time, it was the largest contract ever signed by a running back.

Alexander, who had 370 carries for 1,880 yards (27 TDs) in '05, managed just 896 yards on 252 carries (7 TDs) in '06. He gained 716 yards a year later, and by 2008 he was out of the league
.

Meanwhile, success stories on the cheap are everywhere. Willie Parker and
Arian Foster were undrafted free agents. So were Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. And if they should get hurt or become ineffective, there are other low-priced alternatives.

We bring this up because Michael Turner was originally just that: a low-priced alternative -- the former Chargers fifth-round pick who spent most of his career in San Diego behind LaDanian Tomlinson. Having seen glimpses of his potential, teams around the league were intrigued by Turner once he hit free agency. In 2008, the Falcons signed him to a six-year, $34.5 million contract with $15 million guaranteed.

Early on it looked like a good investment. Atlanta had then-rookie quarterback
Matt Ryan, and the offense relied heavily on the running game to make his job easier. Turner finished 2008 with 376 carries for 1,699 yards (17 TDs). And according to Football Outsiders, Turner ranked third in total RB value behind Thomas Jones and DeAngelo Williams.

But the productivity was short-lived. In '09, Turner played in just 11 games and had 871 yards on 178 carries (10 TDs). His Football Outsiders total value ranking fell to 16th, sandwiched between the likes of Ronnie Brown and Willis McGahee. Turner appeared to rebound last season (334 carries, 1,371 yards, 12 TDs), but his total value was still 16th.

Which brings us to Scout Inc.'s Matt Williamson,
who writes on ESPN.com that Turner's "best days might already be behind him and (he is) someone who will never be an asset in the passing game."

Williamson thinks that
Gartrell Johnson, a former fourth-rounder (coincidentally drafted by the Chargers), could step in for Turner if given the opportunity. "Johnson very well could end up not making this roster, but if he were to stick and be thrust into a prominent role, this hard-nosed power back might surprise."

The bottom line: the Falcons invested a lot of money in Turner, money that could have been better allocated. There's no denying that Turner was great during the '08 season, but he's been something less than that in the two years since. The NFL is full of running backs who are, on average, as productive as Turner but at a fraction of the cost.

Look no further than the guy on the cover of Madden 12 for proof.

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Posted on: April 18, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Hillis a surprising finalist in Madden tourney

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Though this would have been unthinkable before last season (and if there wasn’t a lockout right now, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to think about it), Browns RB Peyton Hillis is in the finals of the Madden ’12 cover tournament.

And with the way his fan base is performing, he’ll have an awfully good shot of defeating Eagles QB Michael Vick to win the cover.

Hillis, a No. 10 seed, easily beat Packers QB Aaron Rodgers 61-39 to advance to the finals, and he will face Vick – a No. 3 seed who knocked off Vikings RB Adrian Peterson 59-41.

With the exception of his 51-49 second-round victory against Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Hillis has cruised through the tournament, compiling at least 60 percent of the vote against each of his opponents.

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Posted on: April 4, 2011 2:21 pm
 

Woodhead, Hillis advance in Madden tourney

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Patriots RB Danny Woodhead continued his remarkable run in the Madden ’12 cover vote, but considering he’s matched up against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in the third round, his streak is probably about to end.

Woodhead, a dark-horse candidate at the beginning of the 16-man tournament, knocked off Giants WR Hakeem Nicks 57 percent-43 percent, but he’ll face a tough candidate in Rogers, who blasted Lions DT Ndamukong Suh 72-28 in the first round and Rams QB Sam Bradford 76-24 in the second round and appears only to be growing stronger.

In the other half of that side of bracket, Browns RB Peyton Hillis – originally a No. 10 seed as compared to Woodhead’s No. 4 – surprisingly edged Falcons QB Matt Ryan 51-49 and will meet Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles.

On the other side of the bracket, 49ers LB Patrick Willis – who upset Steelers WR Hines Ward in the second round – will meet PETA favorite/Eagles QB Michael Vick.

The final quarterfinals matchup between Saints QB Drew Brees and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson might be the most intriguing vote of the third round.

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Posted on: April 4, 2011 9:23 am
Edited on: April 4, 2011 9:23 am
 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Not Matty Ice

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In big news out of Sea Island, Ga., this morning, it looks like Falcons QB Matt Ryan is off the market.

Apparently, Ryan has married his longtime girlfriend Sarah Marshall in a secret out-of-the-way wedding along the Georgia coast. That’s the word from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The best part of the story is that the ceremony took place on an island that’s only accessible via guard house which only lets you in if you’re a resident, a resort guide or an employee. It’s actually where the 2004 G-8 Summit took place, and as the paper points out, “it’s a good place for a private event.”

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:17 am
 

Offseason Checkup: Atlanta Falcons

Posted by Will Brinson



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





It's pretty rare when winning your division and losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions qualifies as a "disappointment," but that's probably the case with the Atlanta Falcons, who really seemed destined to make a run at a championship in 2010.

Alas, destiny came unbound and Green Bay burnt Atlanta to the ground (surely that's not too soon) en route to taking down the Lombardi Trophy. What makes the way in which Atlanta lost interesting is that it was their bread and butter -- old-school, methodical football -- that left them unable to mount a comeback against the Packers

Having said that, this is a Falcons team that's built for the long-haul. Matt Ryan is an All-Pro for years to come, Roddy White is blossoming into one of the best receivers in the NFC (if not the NFL), and the defense as a whole appears full of young playmakers. Sure, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner might not be contributing five years down the road, but that doesn't impact 2011, when the Falcons will be absolutely primed to repeat their success from the previous year.



Speed, Explosiveness, Youth

In 2009, Atlanta was vulnerable to getting torched on big plays, and got gashed by opponents on 20-yard-plus plays 55 times, and 40-yard-plus plays 11 times. They addressed their secondary needs in the offseason, stealing Dunta Robinson away from the Texans (who then became historically bad against the pass, for what it's worth). In 2010, Atlanta gave up just 38 plays of 20+ yards and only six plays of 40+ yards. 

So, yeah, not a problem anymore. But what is a problem? The big plays created on the offensive end. Atlanta ranked next-to-last in the NFL in passing plays over 20 yards with 32, just two ahead of Carolina. You may recall that the Panthers didn't finish No. 1 in the conference. Add in six plays all season of 40-plus yards, and it's clear the Dirty Birds lack some explosiveness in the passing game.

This is partially a result of Mike Mularky's vanilla offense, and partially because Tony Gonzalez can't stretch the field quite as much as he used to. But it's primarily because Atlanta hasn't been able to find a true WR2 to pair with White and give Ryan a deep threat.



1. Speedy WR2 
The M.O. of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith isn't necessarily to grab a WR early just because they need one. And it's unlikely that one of the true talents in this draft -- think A.J. Green and Julio Jones -- will get even close to the Falcons. It's possible they could use a draft pick on a speedy wide receiver, but it's also possible that they could look to boost their receiving corps through free agency (Santana Moss would fit the bill nicely; he's been wildly inconsistent as a WR1, but his downfield burst would fit well with what the Falcons need, especially as a second wideout). The ideal candidate -- as I noted in the podcast above -- is Steve Smith of the Panthers, but an intra-division trade seems like a pretty unlikely outcome.

2. Defensive End/D-line depth 
Defensively, the Falcons performed well in 2010, ranking in the top five in terms of points allowed and right about the middle of the NFL in terms of yards per game allowed. But they weren't anywhere close to the top in terms of sacks, ranking 20th with 31, 13 of which came from the aging John Abraham. Given the incredible defensive line depth in the 2011 NFL Draft class, it's almost likely that we see the Falcons address their pass-rushing needs with their first round pick in April. 

3. Running Back
Michael Turner has been a fantastic find for the Birds since they signed him as a free agent (especially considering people thought they'd overpaid), and Jason Snelling is a pretty good backup insofar as those things go. But at some point, Atlanta's going to need to find some additional running back depth in order to stay ahead of the curve and not find themselves empty-handed if Turner slows under the weight of excessive carries. They could also use a change-of-pace, third-down back, and the second round is a decent spot for them to address that need.



Atlanta's going to compete with the Saints -- and perhaps the Buccaneers?? -- for the division title in 2011, and it's hard to fathom a situation where they're not the favorites to win the NFC South this year. That's simply based on the fact that they return the entire nucleus of a team that showed it knows how to play a grind-it-out style of football and win close games.

And there's no question that this is a team for whom "winning the Super Bowl" isn't just a silly goal to have simply because football hasn't been played and "everyone's got the same record right now." The only issue for Atlanta, in order to take the next step, it seems is finding some explosiveness that the 2010 rendition of the Falcons lacked. Otherwise, building on the base they've already got means we'll be saying similar things about this team for years to come.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com