Third-round draft pick Justin Hardy has made a good first impression on some of his fellow skill position players. On Tuesday, Matt Ryan praised the WR for his consistent improvements; today, Julio Jones commended Hardy for the way he’s responded to challenges thrown his way.
According to wide receiver Roddy White, the offense won’t be as reliant as throwing the ball as they were last season. The Falcons were third in the league with 39.5 attempts per game last season and White expects that number to drop significantly in 2015.
“We’re not going to be passing 35-40 times a game,” White said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
That may well be the plan, but the Falcons are going to have to be a lot more effective running the ball than they were last year if they are going to cut down on the size of the roles that White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan play in the offense.
Falcons are hiring Kyle Shanahan as their OC, per league source. Shanahan and (Seattle DC) Dan Quinn planned to be package deal.
Dirk Koetter, 55, agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Buccaneers with an option in 2017. He interviewed for the job last week and brings familiarity with the NFC South. Before coming to Atlanta, he spent five seasons as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, following stints as head coach at Boise State and Arizona State.
During his three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons ranked eighth, 14th and eighth in total offense. The Falcons' Matt Ryan posted the three highest passing yardage seasons in franchise history under Koetter, as well as three of the four highest completion percentage seasons.
That's important because the Bucs have the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and are in position to select either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon junior Marcus Mariota, who has yet to declare.
Koetter runs a pro-style offense that is heavy on the passing side, which could be a fit for Winston. But he also has a strong connection on the Mariota side — Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was Koetter's quarterbacks coach for eight years, at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-05).
This looks like a good hire for whomever the Bucs tap to be quarterback in 2015.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014, 4:33pm
The fourth-round draft pick from Florida State not only looked exceptional running the ball on a 31-yard touchdown blast, he also looked pretty comfortable splitting out wide as a receiver on a 36-yard reception.
Freeman's flashes definitely caught the eye of quarterback Matt Ryan. And Ryan was asked during his weekly radio show on Atlanta's 680 The Fan why Freeman doesn't get the ball more.
"You know, feel like that's a very deep position for us," Ryan said. "We still feel like 'Quizz [Rodgers] and Steven [Jackson] do a great job for us as well. But, again, Devonta keeps showing that he's capable of making big plays when they present themselves.
"He was huge for us on Sunday. He obviously had the big catch, but he had an explosive touchdown run. He's certainly making his case for getting more touches."
Jackson's status (quad) is in question so Freeman could very well see more touches if Jackson can't go. Even after Jackson went down, Freeman was out-touched by Rodgers although Freeman was much more productive in the end. Jackson's injury wasn't considered serious but as the story says, his status is still in limbo.
Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:02pm
Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh) took limited practice reps again Friday. Manning will face Cincinnati, but he hasn’t played well (fantasy-wise) in recent weeks. He’s still pretty much a must-start, but it’s conceivable that an owner would bench him for Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan, given the matchups.
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 6:14pm
Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh) took limited practice reps Thursday. Manning will face Cincinnati, but he hasn’t played well (fantasy-wise) in recent weeks. He’s still pretty much a must-start, but it’s conceivable that an owner would bench him for Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan, given the matchups.
Friday, December 12, 2014, 6:26pm
Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip, questionable) missed practice all week and is questionable for Week 15. Jones seems pretty iffy for Week 15, though the team hopes he can play against the Steelers. If he can’t go, it would be a big upgrade for Harry Douglas, but Matt Ryan wouldn’t quite as appealing without his top weapon. The Falcons play early on Sunday.
Thursday, December 11, 2014, 6:32pm
Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) missed practice again Thursday. Jones seems pretty iffy for Week 15, though the team hopes he can play against the Steelers. If he can’t go, it would be a big upgrade for Harry Douglas, but Matt Ryan wouldn’t quite as appealing without his top weapon. The Falcons play early on Sunday.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 6:25pm
Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) did not practice Wednesday. Jones seems iffy for Week 15, though the team hopes he can play against the Steelers. If he can’t go, it would be a big upgrade for Harry Douglas, but Matt Ryan wouldn’t quite as appealing without his top weapon.
The Falcons used such a four-WR alignment on 19 plays in Week 1. The eight plays run in the setup on third down included a 35-yard connection between Matt Ryan and Hester on third-and-8 on a drive that resulted in White's 2-yard touchdown catch. On the seven pass plays in 10 personnel on first down, the Falcons gained an average of 13.8 yards per play.
Among the four plays using four wides on second down was a 23-yard Ryan to Douglas connection on second-and-7 that set up Jacquizz Rodgers' 17-yard touchdown run. Another was a 17-yard run by Steven Jackson up the middle on second-and-15, proving that spreading out the defense can open things up for the run. Such a concept might be an effective strategy for the Falcons going into Week 2, particularly with their foursome of capable running backs.
"It worked really good," OC Dirk Koetter said. "I have never in my career been much of 10-personnel guy. Obviously, when we had Tony [Gonzalez] here, our philosophy was it's tough to put a fourth wide receiver in and take the best tight end to ever play off the field. The acquiring of Devin Hester and the fact that Devin has done such a good job of assimilating himself into the system, now we do have our explosive wide receivers.
"We started with a very small package. It's going to grow all the time."
Saturday, August 9, 2014, 10:09am
Falcons HC Mike Smith liked how quarterback Matt Ryan and the first-team offense marched down the field on a 15-play, 77-yard drive on the Falcons' first possession, ending with Jacquizz Rodgers' 2-yard touchdown run.
"Like the way our first-team offense came back and answered the opening drive that the Dolphins were able to put together," Smith said. "I believe it was maybe 15 official plays, maybe 18 snaps. A nine-minute drive that ended in a touchdown."
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said it’s “too early to say” if rookie Devonta Freeman can carry the load as a featured running back but Koetter likes his potential.
“Devonta is coming along fine,” Koetter said Friday. “He runs hard, is eager , is willing, does not back down from anything. He can catch the ball, strong hands, fast. He’s got all of the qualities. It’s just he’s a rookie in the NFL and he’s going to go through some growing pains.”
Freeman will have to prove he can be a reliable pass blocker. The report on Freeman coming out of college was that he was good in that area but Koetter said he’s been just “OK” so far in pass protection with the Falcons.
“I think that’s the biggest adjustment for a running back going from college to the NFL,” Koetter said. “He had a great college career but teams try to test rookie running backs. They’ve got those big outside linebackers. There’s a lot of protections, there’s a lot of calls. There’s a learning curve. He’s on the right track.”
If Freeman can't prove trustworthy in pass protection, he's going to have a tough time getting on the field since the team has so much invested in Matt Ryan and the passing game. Freeman's ADP has shot up since Steven Jackson's injury, but there's a good chance he'll continue to play behind Jacquizz Rodgers until he proves himself in pass pro.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 10:07am
Falcons QB Matt Ryan's deep connection with Harry Douglas down the left sideline drew a rousing reaction from the fans. Ryan continued to establish a rhythm with his primary receivers -- Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Douglas -- in preparation for Friday night's exhibition against the Miami Dolphins. It helps that Ryan is getting a noticeably cleaner pocket, even against the Titans. "I thought today was really good,'' Ryan said. The real key is Ryan having a rhythm with Jones since Jones hasn't played in live action since last October following foot surgery. "... I thought Julio looked really good. Coach [Mike] Smith has him on a number count of his reps. But when he was out there, I thought he ran crisp and looked explosive and made some catches for us. I think he's coming along really nicely. No doubt, he'll be ready to go when we get to the season opener.''
Prior to last year’s #14 finish, Ryan had finished in the top 8 for three straight seasons. He’ll get Julio Jones back, which will help. Since Jones has entered the league, Ryan has averaged 18.8 FP in 37 games in which Jones has played. In 14 games without Jones, Ryan has averaged 14.6 FP. In short, Ryan has top 5 potential when his top wideout is available.
Saturday, August 2, 2014, 10:50am
His football team now resides in the heart of the Silicon Valley, so it's only natural that San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh would describe the maturation of his quarterback in terms a techie could appreciate.
"Colin Kaepernick is at the highest level, where he can auto-correct," Harbaugh said of his fourth-year quarterback at training camp this week. "You know, like auto-correcting in texting or whatever. Even if a coach makes a mistake, it's wrong in the script, the play is called into him wrong, he just auto-corrects it and doesn't ask, 'Hey, is that right or wrong?' "
Kaepernick is ranked 8th on our QB list but has a higher ADP (10th round) than some big names under him who are going earlier in drafts - Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III for example. The 49ers went out and signed Stevie Johnson to play in the slot and to go with Anquan Bolden and Michael Crabtree, so the weapons are certainly there. With our ranking and his lower ADP, Kaepernick is looking like a pretty good value.
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