Falcons

Falcons release Ovie Mughelli, hand starting job to rookie Bradie Ewing

The Atlanta Falcons released veteran fullback Ovie Mughelli, paving the way for rookie Bradie Ewing to take over the starting role.

Mughelli was coming off a season-ending MCL tear and was due to earn $3M in 2012, so while it’s tough to imagine Ewing immediately filling Mughelli’s shoes, it’s a move that made financial sense.

Ewing was the top-rated fullback on my board with a 5th-round grade, which was where the Falcons selected him in last month’s draft. He was one of the few players in this year’s draft class with experience in the traditional fullback role.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Falcons Comments Off

Draft Grades: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons had very little to work with as a result of their trade for Julio Jones in last year’s draft. As a result, I’ll evaluate this class based solely on the picks with which they had to work. That said, the Falcons did absolutely nothing to help them in 2012 and added very little by the way of developmental prospects.

Peter Konz was the best center in this year’s class by a wide margin, and he will eventually start for the Falcons. However, I was surprised that they failed to add an instant impact player. The Falcons made last year’s draft all about the present, so what changed about their draft philosophy in one year?

Lamar Holmes was a reach in the 3rd round. He’s a developmental prospect at right tackle and may eventually be shifted inside to guard. He may eventually compete for a starting job, but he likely won’t see the field much in 2012.

Bradie Ewing was the top fullback on my board and I gave him a 5th-round grade. But how does he fit in Atlanta? Ovie Mughelli is the starter and no one keeps two fullbacks these days. He may end up getting cut in training camp.

Jonathan Massaquoi was overrated by the media, likely due to the perception that Troy churns out sleeper prospects. He’s limited athletically, but does have some value in the 5th round. He’ll compete for a backup job at defensive end, but it’s a crowded position on the Falcons depth chart.

Charles Mitchell will compete for the backup strong safety job and should contribute on special teams. He has a good chance to survive the final roster cuts due the lack of depth at safety in Atlanta.

Travian Robertson is a physical lineman who could prove to be a steal if he can stay on the field. He’s suffered a long list of injuries, including two torn ACLs, which may limit his ability to every play a meaningful role in the NFL.

Even taking into account the Falcons limited picks, this was a disappointing draft class. None of their picks will play a significant role in 2012 unless forced into action due to injuries. And in terms of long-term value, only Peter Konz projects as a future starter.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Falcons Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Atlanta Falcons

It wasn’t exactly a Ricky Williams-like trade, but what the Falcons gave up for Julio Jones comes about as close we’ve seen since that blockbuster in 1999. GM Thomas Dmitroff took a major risk – and in my opinion a bad one – by giving up two 1st-round picks (2011, 2012), a 2nd-round pick (2011) and two 4th-round picks (2011, 2012). That’s an awful lot to give up for a rookie receiver, especially when you consider it would have taken a lot less to land a proven receiver like Vincent Jackson.

While I disagree with the trade, there’s no denying the fact that Jones is a great fit for the Falcons. He gives Matt Ryan another weapon to work with, teaming with Roddy White and Michael Jenkins to give the Falcons three capable receivers over 6″ tall. Few teams have the depth in the secondary to compete with that.

Akeem Dent was a slight reach in the 3rd round. He is coming off a breakout senior year and really excelled in Georgia’s 3-4 defense, but in Atlanta he’ll transition back to the 4-3 where he failed to make an impact early in his career. He is likely nothing more than a backup at the next level.

I absolutely love Jacquizz Rodgers in the 5th round. He may not have the measurables of an elite running back, but all he did was produce at Oregon State. He’ll likely never rush for a 1,000 yards, but his versatility as a runner and receiver gives offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey a dangerous weapon to incorporate into the game plan. He could be one of the real surprise rookie performers in 2011.

I’m not a huge fan of taking kickers in the draft and I’m especially not a fan of reaching for one. Matt Bosher is just an ordinary kicker. He’s fairly accurate on field goals, but doesn’t have a particularly strong leg. There are probably 5-10 players out there with similar skills who are readily available every offseason.

I like the selection of Andrew Jackson. While the offensive line has been good the past few years, depth is lacking. They’re an injury away from having some serious issues and hopefully Jackson eases that concern.

Cliff Matthews could be a steal in the 7th round. His skill set compares favorably to John Abraham, and the Falcons undoubtedly hope he can reach his full potential by learning from the veteran.

This draft could push the Falcons over the top if Jones and Rodgers elevate their offense to a truly elite level. However, the success of the draft really rides on Jones. Considering what they gave up, anything short of a perennial Pro Bowl career would have to be considered a disappointment.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Falcons Comments Off

Top 10 Draft Day Decision Makers

10. Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons
This Bill Belichick disciple rebuilt the Falcons in one draft, possibly even one draft pick, with Matt Ryan in 2008. What Dimitroff has accomplished in three drafts is impressive, and makes you wonder just how good he could make the Falcons in another three years.
Best 1st-round pick: Matt Ryan (2008)
Best late-round pick: Kroy Biermann (5th round, 2008)
Biggest bust: Peria Jerry (1st round, 2009)

9.  Mike Reinfeldt, Titans
Reinfeldt’s first two 1st-round picks (Micael Griffin, Chris Johnson) have already developed into Pro Bowlers, and Kenny Britt is poised for a breakout year in 2011. Reinfeldt has also started to get production from some late-round picks such as Jason McCourty, Gerald McRath and Alterraun Verner.
Best 1st-round pick: Chris Johnson (2008)
Best late-round pick: Jason McCourty (6th round, 2009)
Biggest bust: Chris Henry (2nd round, 2007)
Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Titans 1 Comment

Falcons interested in running backs in draft

The Atlanta Falcons are obviously set at running back for 2011 with Michael Turner. However, that hasn’t stopped them from doing their homework on some running backs in this year’s draft class.

It appears as though the Falcons are looking to add a new dimension to their offense in the form of a home-run hitter to compliment the more physical Turner.

Hunter could make an immediate impact

The Falcons have met with (or are scheduled to meet with) Kendall Hunter, Mario Fanin, DuJuan Harris, Derrick Locke and Da’Rel Scott. All five have been clocked at 4.45 or faster in the 40 this offseason.

Despite the fact that running back is well down on the Falcons list of needs, don’t be shocked if they address the position fairly early in the draft. Coming off a 13-3 season, the Falcons are one of a handful of teams with enough in place for 2011 that they can afford an early luxury pick.

A player such as Kendall Hunter, who could be an option in the 2nd round, could immediately become a dangerous weapon on offense and change the way defenses game plan for the Falcons.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Falcons 2 Comments

Draft Needs: Atlanta Falcons

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Atlanta Falcons [full archive here].

Season Recap – Compiling a 13-3 record, Matt Ryan and company shined throughout the regular season and secured the first seed in the NFC. The offense came together as Roddy White finished second in receiving yards while Michael Turner finished third in rushing. Atlanta’s run ended in the playoffs after they lost to the Packers in the divisional round. With such a young core of players, Atlanta seems poised to be one of the top teams in the NFL in 2011.

Needs:
1. Defensive End
– The Falcons don’t have much at DE and need to bring in a star to complement pro-bowler John Abraham. Jamaal Anderson has been a bust and Lawrence Sidbury hasn’t lived up to expectations. With the strength of this year’s class, the Falcons should be able to find a player in the first two rounds. Ryan Kerrigan could be a nice fit. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Falcons Comments Off

A.J. Green, Justin Houston meet with Falcons

A.J. Green, who has previously said that the potential NFL lockout would influence his decision to enter the draft, had an opportunity to get some answers to his questions.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Green, Justin Houston and other Georgia underclassmen met with Falcons president Rich McCay to discuss making the jump to the NFL. The potential lockout was reportedly the main topic of discussion.AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: A.J. Green  of the Georgia Bulldogs pulls in this touchdown reception against Demond Washington  of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As I’ve stated before, I fully expect Green to enter the draft. He is a top-15 lock, and could go as high as the top five. The looming lockout should have no impact on his decision.

Justin Houston, however, could be swayed by the potential lockout. He is a potential 1st-round pick, but definitely not a lock. By returning to school he could reasonably expect to boost his stock without running the risk of having to sit out the season in the NFL.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Falcons Comments Off

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

10 Biggest NFL Underachievers

10. Knowshon Moreno
Is it too early to call him a bust? In two games before getting hurt Moreno averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. His performance was so disappointing that the Broncos traded for Laurence Maroney (not too early to call him a bust). Moreno is expected to return to action this week.

9. DeAngelo Hall
According to Pro Football Focus, Hall has been targeted 24 times and has allowed 23 completions. Wow. Just by pure luck you’d think two or three of those passes would be dropped or slightly off target and fall incomplete. And he isn’t just being targeted on short easy routes – he’s allowed over 10 yards per completion.

8. Cadillac Williams
When are the Bucs finally going to give up on Williams? He’s averaging just 2.5 yards per attempt, easily the lowest among starting running backs. He’s been so bad that undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount, who was cut by the Titans, is now splitting carries with Williams.

7. Ndamukong Suh
Suh was supposed to be an instant impact player. Many said he was one of the best defensive prospects to enter the draft in years. Sure, he’s been credited with three sacks, but is that really a good way to measure interior lineman? He has been exposed as a liability against the run and opponents are taking advantage of the hole he creates in the middle of their defensive line. The Lions are giving up 4.8 yards per attempt – 4th highest average in the league.

6. Brian Robiskie/Mohamed Massaquoi
Maybe Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson weren’t the problem in Cleveland last year. The Browns simply don’t have a receiver who can make a play. The two 2009 2nd-round picks have failed to show any improvements in their second season. According to Pro Football Focus they rank 97th and 96th in percent of targeted passes caught – out of 97 qualifying receivers.

5. Michael Crabtree
After a strong end to his rookie season, Crabtree was a major reason why the 49ers were picked by many to win the NFC West. Yes, Alex Smith hasn’t helped his cause but Crabtree hasn’t helped Smith’s either. He’s caught just 11 of 21 passes thrown his direction. A true No. 1 receiver makes plays even on poorly thrown balls.

4. Michael Turner
Here’s a scary thought: the Falcons are 3-1 with almost no help from Burner Turner. He’s averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this year. His career low entering this season was 4.5. He just hasn’t looked like the big bruising back that terrorized the AFC South the past two seasons. But he’s 28 and has never shied away from contact, perhaps he’s simply nearing the end of the road.

3. Jared Allen
Where has the Vikings sack master been hiding this season? He has been credited with just one sack and has generally been a non-factor all season. His struggles have had a ripple effect throughout the Vikings defense. If he isn’t getting to the quarterback, the rest of the unit suffers.

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings grabs his torso as he lies on the turf after taking a hard hit from Roman Harper  of the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's been an ugly start to the season for Favre and the Vikings

2. Chris Johnson
So much for all that talk about breaking Dickerson’s rushing record. Johnson is averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this season – nearly two full yards less than last season. Maybe teams have figured out how to stop him. Or maybe he’s just worn out from his league-leading 358 carries last year.

1. Brett Favre
Maybe Favre should have hung up the cleats for good this time. He’s already thrown six interceptions, just one fewer than all of last season. He’s averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt, which would be a career low. And he’s completing just 61 percent of his passes – down seven percentage points from last season. Any way you slice it, Favre has been this year’s biggest underachiever.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Falcons, Lions, Redskins, Titans, Vikings Comments Off

10 Observations From Week 1

1. Arian Foster is the answer to all of the Texans problems. They’ve been looking for a feature back since entering the league. Jonathan Wells, Domanick Davis Williams, Ahman Green, Steve Slaton and many others have tried and failed to fill that hole. Now Foster looks like the real deal.

2. I missed the end of the Cowboys-Redskins game, but when I heard the game ended on a holding penalty the name Alex Barron immediately popped into my head. Sure enough, it was Barron who blew the game for the Cowboys. He may be the least disciplined player in the game – regardless of position. He’ll lose his starting job, and maybe his job altogether, as soon as Marc Colombo is healthy.

3. But I shouldn’t put all the blame on Barron. Tony Romo and Tashard Choice, what were you thinking at the end of the first half?! A shovel pass is possibly the last thing that should have happened on that play. Throw a hail mary, throw it out of bounds, or just take a sack! Anything is better than a shovel pass. That was destined to fail.

4. The Steelers are in serious trouble if Max Starks doesn’t get healthy soon. Jonathan Scott replaced Starks on Sunday and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, allowed three quarterback pressures on the 10 pass plays in which he was on the field. Tony Hillis is also an option to replace Starks at left tackle. And if they get really desperate, rookie Kyle Jolly is on the practice squad.

New York Jets Braylon Edwards is called for running into the kicker on Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff in the second quarter on Monday Night Football in week 1 of the NFL season at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on September 13, 2010.    UPI /John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Braylon Edwards commits one of the Jets 14 penalties, running into Billy Cundiff on a FG attempt.

5. The Jets might be the least disciplined team in football, and I’m not at all surprised. What do you expect when you put that many egos one roster, led by a coach that has little control over his players. Rex Ryan is a hell of coach, but he isn’t real big on discipline and it shows on the field. The Jets committed 14 penalties for 125 yards, 10 of which came in the 1st half. For a team that isn’t expecting much out of its offense, that’s simply unacceptable.

6. What happened to the Dolphins offense? Surely the Bills defense, in their first game running a 3-4 system, didn’t improve dramatically from a season ago. The Dolphins didn’t turn the ball over, controlled the clock for over 36 minutes and yet only put 13 points on the board (the other two points came on a safety). Here’s one idea to jump start the offense: get more than two receivers involved. Brandon Marshall and Davon Bess were the only wide receivers with a catch on Sunday. They need to find away to get Brian Hartline involved. He’s their Wes Welker.

7. The Bucs and Browns may be the two worst teams in football. The Bills were in the discussion, but they actually looked better than expected on Sunday, at least on defense. The Rams were also in the mix, but nearly pulled off a win over the Cardinals. But the Browns and Bucs played a nearly unwatchable game this weekend. That game very well may have decided the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jake Locker, pack your bags for Cleveland.

8. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Peyton Manning dropped back to pass 59 times on Sunday and was sacked, hit or pressured on 25 of those plays. That’s a remarkable 42.5 percent of his pass plays. That’s bad news for the Colts offensive line, but it also calls attention to just how freaking amazing Manning is at playing this sport. Despite all that pressure he didn’t throw an interception and completed over 70 percent of his passes.

9. The Falcons offense couldn’t have been more predictable. Hand off to Michael Turner, pass to Roddy White, hand off to Michael Turner… and so on. They need to get others involved in the offense if they’re going to improve upon Sunday’s pitiful showing. The Steelers defense is good, but not that good. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularky played right into the Steelers hands with a terribly uncreative game plan.

10. And finally, I’m not even sure what to say about Calvin Johnson’s touchdown that wasn’t. Clearly he caught the ball. The NFL needs to do away with these nonsense rules that throw common sense out the window.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, Lions, Steelers, Texans 1 Comment