Tag:Atlanta Falcons
Posted on: September 19, 2011 12:20 am
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Dunta Robinson should face suspension

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With all the new rules about head-hunting and helmet-to-helmet hits, you’d think that the only time a player would break that rule is if it was bang-bang play that was purely accidental. Especially if that person is already a repeat offender.

Dunta Robinson got nailed with a fine last year after a massive helmet-to-helmet hit on DeSean Jackson (which you can see in the video below), which resulted in a Jackson concussion.



Robinson got hit with a $50,000 fine that was later reduced, and everything was forgiven, right? Robinson even called Jackson to apologize.

That goodwill disappeared tonight when Robinson led with his helmet into the jaw of Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin that was so blatant and so nasty that the officials would not have been wrong to eject him from the game. In fact, that’s exactly what they should have done.

Maclin had to come out for a short time, but he returned soon after. It’s a good thing he wasn’t hurt more seriously, or the Internet outrage against Robinson would have been even more intense. For good reason. And though I don’t usually root for the commissioner to take large chunks of money from a player’s paycheck, here’s hoping that Robinson gets hit with a monster fine (in the six-figure range?) and a suspension.

At this point, he’s earned it, and he needs to be stopped.

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Posted on: September 17, 2011 6:16 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 6:28 pm
 

Reeves says Falcons weren't there for Vick

Reeves on the Falcons: “When Mike really needed them they turned their back." (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


Dan Reeves was the coach when the Falcons selected Michael Vick with the first-overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft. Atlanta was 7-9 and 9-6-1 in Vick's first two seasons before Reeves was fired midway through the 2003 campaign. At lot has happened in the subsequent eight years; Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2004 before dogfighting charges and legal issues landed him in prison in 2007. He returned to football in 2009 with the Eagles, as Donovan McNabb's backup, and after a Comeback Player of the Year effort in 2010, he's now Philly's franchise quarterback.

On Sunday night, he returns to Atlanta, this time as the Eagles starter, in a matchup between two teams many people expect to be in the playoffs come January.

Reeves, who still keeps in touch with Vick, understands that this isn't a typical week for either the Falcons or the Eagles. “There is a big buzz down here,” Reeves told PhillySportsDaily.com's Tim McManus. “There is tremendous excitement waiting for this game. There are mixed emotions.”

McManus writes that Reeves "was one of many that had invested something valuable in Vick and got burned." Despite it all, Reeves remained loyal, something he thinks the organization should have done, too.

“When Mike really needed them they turned their back on him in my opinion,” said Reeves. “They could have been a big supporter and they let him go. I think it could have been handled differently. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the organization’s standpoint, but I thought they could have been more supportive and instead they severed ties with him.”

That's a slippery slope. As PFT.com's Mike Florio notes, Vick had exhibited a pattern of lying to his employers, the NFL and authorities about his involvement in dogfighting. At some point, the Falcons needed to move on, and that's what they did. And it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows for them; the team was dreadful in 2007, going 4-12 and watching new head coach Bobby Petrino quit midway through the year.

“[Vick] has let down his fans and his team. He has damaged the reputation of our club and the entire National Football League, and betrayed the trust of many people,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in the summer of 2007

The Eagles-Falcons get-together won't be the first time Vick has faced his former team, just the first time he'll do so as Philly's starting quarterback. The two sides played in December 2009. On that day, Vick replaced McNabb in the fourth quarter with the Eagles leading 27-0. Yahoo.com's Michael Silver writes that it was "to the delight of thousands of [Atlanta] fans – many of them wearing replicas of Vick’s old Falcons jersey – who’d been chanting his name."

Silver continues:

"In what Blank would come to view as a gratuitous gesture of disrespect by Philly coach Andy Reid, Vick wowed the crowd with a 43-yard pass to wideout Reggie Brown, followed by a 5-yard scoring toss to tight end Brent Celek, his first touchdown pass since 2006 in an eventual 34-7 victory. With tens of thousands of frustrated customers already having bolted, the Dome was dominated by jubilant Vick supporters, and Blank could only sit and seethe."

So, yes, this won't be your typical non-divisional, Week 2 matchup between two NFC teams. Far from it, in fact.


The Atlanta Falcons will square off against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Who will come out on top? Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan for a preview of this game.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Film Room: Eagles vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The uniquely compelling storylines surrounding this game pertain to off-field matters.

But those storylines wouldn’t exist if not for the action taking place on-field. (The reason you don’t know the names of the 17 people arrested in the dogfighting sting in Pass Christian, Mississippi on April 24, 2007 is because none of those 17 people had ever juked and jived 50-plus yards for a touchdown in an NFL game.)

Here’s an on-field breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons’ upcoming match up against their former quarterback.

1. Has he really changed?
As a leader and student of the game, Michael Vick has clearly grown since his days in Atlanta. But his recent growth as a pocket passer has been overstated. Vick is a sounder technician and smarter decision-maker than he was as a Falcon, but that’s not unlike saying Leonardo DiCaprio is a better actor now than he was on Growing Pains.

Of course he’s better now – he’s older and had nowhere to go but up.

Vick still doesn’t diagnose defenses with great acuity. He struggles to identify blitzes and relies too much on sandlot tactics. To be clear, those sandlot tactics are incomparably spectacular; few quarterbacks make as many plays as Vick. But few also leave as many plays on the field.


2. Speed Factor
The most significant resource Vick has in Philadelphia that he didn’t have in Atlanta is speed around him. Vick’s own speed can give defensive coordinators nightmares. Vick’s speed coupled with the speed of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy make for night terrors.

It’s the type of speed that can kill – not just quickly, but also slowly. Defensive backs on both sides of the field must play with a meaty cushion against Eagle wideouts, which makes it easier for Vick to identify coverages and throwing lanes. Teams also must keep their safeties over the top, which puts added responsibility on linebackers to cover crossing patterns inside, thus opening up the flats for McCoy out of the backfield (McCoy’s 79 receptions easily led all running backs last season).

Vick’s speed also makes life easier on his offensive tackles, as defensive ends are often instructed to keep him in the pocket by rushing with less vigorous containment tactics. Because opposing pass-rushes can be naturally tentative, the Eagles don’t need to bother with play-action.

3. Zoning
It’s foolish to play man coverage against the Eagles. For starters, few teams have two corners fast enough to consistently run with Jackson and Maclin. What’s more, in man coverage, the defenders turn their backs to the ball and run away from the action by following receivers, which creates enormous outside running lanes for a quarterback to exploit if he gets outside the pocket (this is how Vick killed the Giants in Week 15 last season).

Fortunately, the Falcons are a zone-oriented defense, so they won’t have to adjust their scheme much for this game. But they will have to adjust their execution. Last Sunday against Chicago, the Bears used downfield route combinations that stretched the Falcon safeties over the top and created gaping voids in the deep-intermediate sectors of the zone. It was problematic.
 
Philly’s outside speed will only exacerbate this problem Sunday night – especially given that Falcon corners Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson prefer to play off coverage at the line of scrimmage rather than delivering a jam.

4. The Solution
To prevent the Eagles from stretching the zone coverage, the Falcons must force Vick to get rid of the ball quickly. Doing this will also put the onus on Vick’s presnap reads and prevent him from extending the play and conjuring his sandlot magic. Mike Smith and Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder should tell their men again and again that the earlier Vick gets rid of the ball Sunday night, the better.

Atlanta is capable of bringing heat. As we talked about last week, Smith has adopted a more aggressive philosophy than he had as the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville. The zone blitz out of a 4-3 base or nickel package has become a staple in the Falcons’ scheme.

With pressuring Vick being so important, and with the Eagles having a makeshift, incohesive interior line, it’s as viable a tactic as ever.

5. Control Clock
For as much hoopla as there’s been about the addition of Julio Jones, the Falcons are still a power-run team (their unbalanced play-calling against Chicago was a function of the lopsided score). Michael Turner is a bruising high-volume runner and the offensive line is an unathletic but well-sized group.

The Falcons, working out of a Mike Mularkey playbook that’s rich with two-back and two-tight end formations, are already built to mount long drives. They’ll be wise to shorten the game and avoid a shootout with the Eagles.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games.


Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2011 9:57 am
 

Packers vs. Saints, Week 1 Preview Podcast

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

We're want your questions! Got something you want answered on the podcast or feel like telling us how dumb smart we are? Email us here.

Wow. What a way to kick off the NFL season, huh? The Saints and Packers soaked the house in fire and set it on fire Thursday night and yes indeed football is back.

We break down Sean Payton's late-game and fourth-down playcalling, talk about how to defend Aaron Rodgers, wonder whether or not there should be some concern with the New Orleans and Green Bay defenses and Will admits that he was absolutely dead wrong on not giving the Packers receivers top-five status.

The guys also break down the Steelers-Ravens game, the Bears-Falcons game and the Cowboys-Jets game.

Then Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com joins Will to chat about the statistical outlook for the season, what the best over/unders are for the NFL season, who the best survivor picks for Week 1 are, and much much, more.

Hit the play button below to listen (and did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



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Posted on: September 8, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



On paper, the top two seeds from last season’s NFC playoffs are both improved heading into 2011. Consequently, the Atlanta Falcons have become somewhat of a trendy Super Bowl pick. But the Chicago Bears? They’re the team most are picking to finish right behind Detroit in the NFC North. In analyzing five key threads these teams share, we might understand why.

1. Receiver Infusion
Thomas Dimitroff realized that Atlanta’s offense was a playmaker short of being nearly unstoppable. So, the fourth-year general manager traded five premium draft picks to move up and select Alabama wideout Julio Jones sixth overall.

Jones is a great fit because he’s not only a dynamic downfield threat who also has the thickness to go inside, but thanks to his days in the Crimson Tide’s black-and-blue offense, he’s also a savvy downfield blocker. That’s important, as Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has always had a predilection for power runs out of two tight-end/two back formations.

In Chicago, with a system built around downfield routes out of three-and four-receiver formations, offensive coordinator Mike Martz needed more firepower outside. Instead of reaching for an unproven wideout late in the first round, overpaying for free agents Santana Moss or Santonio Holmes or taking a risk on Braylon Edwards (attitude) or Plaxico Burress (rustiness), the Bears acquired  Roy Williams after his star fully plummeted in Dallas.

Williams, a straight-line runner with big hands and feet, was never a good fit for the Cowboys’ shifty catch-and-run oriented system. But in the 28 games he played for Martz in Detroit, Williams produced 2,148 yards receiving. However, whatever optimism the Detroit success instilled was likely blown away by Williams’ dropped passes and admission to being out of shape this past August (candor has always been his Achilles heel).

Because the Bears refuse to admit that Devin Hester is merely a return specialist with modest slot receiving ability (i.e. NOT a starter), it was rising third-year pro Johnny Knox whom Williams supplanted in the lineup. Knox, who has superb speed and quickness and excellent chemistry with Jay Cutler, particularly in deciphering zone coverages, is eager to recapture his starting job (and thus, his leverage for a new contract in the near future). He will, if Williams continues to struggle. And the Bears’ passing game will essentially be right back in the same place it was a year ago.

The Falcons figure to clearly have an improved pass attack. The Bears are TBD.

2. Big meaty offensive lines
To put it politely, Atlanta’s and Chicago’s offensive lines both feature more size than athleticism. The lunch pail approach has worked great for the Falcons. They have a straightforward power-run offense that’s conducive to forming good chemistry up front. In the passing game (where a line’s athletic limitations get exposed), the Falcons rarely use more than three wide receivers, which makes an extra tight end or running back available to stay in and block. In short, the Falcons can bend their system for their offensive line.
 
The Bears, on the other hand, are more inclined to bend (or break) their offensive line for their system. Martz frequently has Cutler take seven-step drops, which only gives heavy-footed offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, laterally stiff guard Chris Williams and the rest of the front more time to get beat in pass protection. Also, with the running back often being an important receiving option in Martz’s system, Bears linemen must shoulder more responsibility in blitz identification and pickup – an area in which they’ve struggled.

Hence, the 52 times Cutler was sacked last season.

3. The traditional  4-3 defense: evolve vs. resolve
Mike Smith was a classic zone-based 4-3 defensive coordinator in Jacksonville. But over his three seasons in Atlanta, he’s drifted away from vanilla Cover 2 tactics and towards more diverse blitzes and zone exchanges. Impressive considering he employs these tactics out of traditional base and nickel sets.
 
Lovie Smith was a classic zone-based 4-3 defensive coordinator in St. Louis. Over his seven years in Chicago, he’s ... remained a proponent of classic 4-3 zone-based defense.

The Bears are the only team that virtually still runs a fulltime strict Cover 2. They’ve made it work largely because they have two perfect linebackers for this scheme in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But as we’ll explore more in-depth another week, there are significant vulnerabilities to a Cover 2. Those vulnerabilities are why Smith and the Falcons have chosen to evolve.

4. The No. 2 defensive end
Arguably the best two defensive ends in the NFC are Julius Peppers and John Abraham. Both have devastating explosiveness off the edge and both can play the run (Peppers is by far the NFL’s best all-around run-stopping 4-3 end; Abraham is more finesse-oriented but is still underrated as a backside chaser).

What the Falcons learned last season is a pass-rush is incomplete without a second outside presence. Kroy Biermann is a very active run-defender, but he registered just three sacks in his debut season as a starter. So, Thomas Dimitroff spent $11 million (guaranteed) on free agent Ray Edwards, who each of the past two years in Minnesota posted at least eight sacks against frequent one-on-one blocking opposite Jared Allen. Edwards is also an adept all-around run-defender.

The Bears have a stalwart No. 2 pass-rusher of their own in Israel Idonije. Versatile enough to line up inside or outside, the ninth-year veteran tied Peppers for the team lead in sacks last season (eight). Idonije does not quite have Edwards’ quickness around the corner, but he’s one of the best in the league at executing stunts.

5. Safeties
Over the years, watching the Bears try out different young safeties in the starting lineup has been like watching Gilbert Brown try on outfits that don’t make him look fat. The Bears drafted Danieal Manning in ’06; Kevin Payne in ’07; Craig Steltz in ’08; Al Afalava in ’09; Major Wright in ’10 and Chris Conte in ’11.

All, with the exception of Conte, were given a shot at starting. And, assuming that newly signed Brandon Meriweather soon supplants Wright as the current first-string free safety, all were ultimately deemed unqualified.

The Falcons have taken a flier with young safeties, as well. The difference is theirs have succeeded. Thomas DeCoud, a third-round pick in ’08, started all 16 games each of the past two seasons. His instincts in coverage have improved and he’s a fast, firm open-field tackler.

His running mate, William Moore, a second-round pick in ’09, stayed healthy for the first time last season and showed genuine game-changing potential over 15 starts. Moore’s a fierce hitter who is developing in pass defense quicker than expected.

So who will win? Check out the video below. And see who our experts pick for all the Week 1 games


Read Andy's Film Room breakdown of Jets-Cowboys.

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter and contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: August 18, 2011 11:19 am
 

White understands why college athletes take money

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The University of Miami football program was on the receiving end of a swift kick to the groin Tuesday when Yahoo! Sports reported that a former booster admitted to providing "thousands of impermissible benefits" to at least 72 Hurricanes athletes over an eight-year period.

Some of those named in the story currently play in the NFL. Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (who attended the "U" but wasn't cited for wrongdoing in Yahoo! Sports' investigation) on Wednesday spoke publicly about the allegations, as did his Texans teammate and "U" alum, Eric Winston.

Commentary wasn't reserved to just former Hurricanes, though. Whether universities making handsome profits off its athletic programs should pay its athletes has long been debated. And Wednesday night, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham, took to Twitter to go on record on the matter:

"How can u expect a kid to turn down a 30,000 dollar check when they momma starving u can't be serious I'm taking it every time cause family comes first."

And that's the crux of the argument from those who feel college athletes deserve more than a scholarship for their contributions to a university. But White was just getting warmed up. Here are his other tweets on the subject (all sic'd):
  • "They got to change the 3 year rule the nfl has cause its killing the kids." 
     
  • "Found out today ohio state made 2 million for selling terrell pryor jersey last year amazing and he gets kicked out of the university so he doesn't even get to finish his education for free thanks NCAA." 
     
  • "So the biggest crocks in football thinking about giving miami the death penalty ridiculous how about the NCAA fix the rules." 
We consulted the Google Tubes and couldn't find any mention of Ohio State making $2 million on Pryor jerseys, but we did come across this Forbes.com slideshow that said the Buckeyes football program made $36 million in profits in 2009. Certainly some of that came from jersey sales.

Exact dollar amounts aside, White makes a fair point. CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel, who wrote that the NCAA shouldn't give Miami the death penalty, later tweeted his own proposal for paying college athletes: "How about this: Pay athletes ... but make them pay their own way. They can't have it both ways. Not to me."

Works for us, and we're guessing players would be in favor of it, too (assuming the cost of paying their own way isn't greater than or equal to the payments they would get from the school).

While this makes for a swell debating topic, the real issue is if the NCAA will ever change the rules. As it stands, we wouldn't bet Nevin Shapiro's $930 million Ponzi scheme winnings on it.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 12:23 pm
 

Week 1 review, NFC South podcast preview

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The podcast preview train has pulled into the NFC South and, quite conveniently, we also have a full week of NFL preseason games in which we can judge the nature of every single team without fear that things will change later.

I kid, I kid. But we do debate whether Cam Newton was awesome or overrated, how much of an impact Julio Jones will have on the Falcons, whether people are sleeping on the Saints, and whether or the Buccaneers are due to regress.

We also do the over/under thing for the teams (Panthers, 4.5; Saints/Falcons, 10; Bucs, 8), we rank the running backs in the division in order of best-to-worst and we guess who the impact player in the division will be. Also, Ryan chides Will for trying to talk about the Panthers too much. But that happens every week.

All that -- and much, much, more -- by clicking the play button below. Also, SUBSCRIBE VIA ITUNES.


If you can't view the podcast, click here to download.



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com