Falcons beat writer Vaughn McClure: No one figured Leonard Hankerson would emerge as a fantasy target based on his career numbers in four seasons with the Redskins. Hankerson has just six touchdowns in 31 career games (123 targets). Injuries have hampered his progress, but a healthy Hankerson has a legit chance to be a secondary threat behind Julio Jones. Hankerson already showed he could be a scoring target with a 2-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan in a preseason matchup against the Jets.
Sunday, August 16, 2015, 9:05am
T.J. Yates didn't enter training camp thinking he was entitled to anything.
Although the Atlanta Falcons quarterback has one playoff win under his belt and essentially ran offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme when he played for Gary Kubiak in Houston, Yates knew how key preseason games would be in determining the backup to starter Matt Ryan.
Yates would be the first to admit his first live action this season was a little shaky. He took over for Ryan after one series and completed 9 of 15 passes for 105 yards with an interception in 32 snaps. He was sacked once and had a passer rating of 53.5.
Yates, who ran his share of bootlegs, wishes he had a couple of passes back as he was obviously off target. There appeared to be miscommunication between himself and rookie receiver Justin Hardy on the interception.
Meanwhile, Renfree completed 6 of 7 passes for 68 yards in 23 snaps. His passer rating was 107.1.
“In this league it takes a group at that spot,” Ryan said. “I think we have the right group to do it.”
“Anytime you can run the football and you can run it effectively is slows down the pass rush,” Ryan said. “That’s the goal for us, to be balanced on offense and to be able to get that run game going. I think Kyle has a great scheme in terms of the zone blocking scheme. We have to rep it. Get better at it. Get on the same page, all 11 of us on offense. Once we do that, I think that will help.”
The story added that Ryan wouldn't pick a favorite out of the group, and he very well may be taking the high road as a lot needs to be sorted out as far as the Falcons RBs go. The Falcons are installing a outside-zone blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan the story added.
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."
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