Sunday, July 6, 2014, 9:00pm
Rangers beat writer Gerry Fraley and columnist Rick Gosselin joined Fox Sports Southwest's Dana Larson on Monday for SportsDay OnAir. Here are some highlights.
On Scott Linehan:
Fraley: "I saw Scott in St. Louis when he got fired midway through the season. He had Steven Jackson who is one of the most gifted running backs in football and a cut ahead of Murray right now. He had no idea what to do with Stephen Jackson in that Rams offense. I still think Linehan is a puzzling hire to me. I understand he is tight with Jason Garrett. He is even more pass happy than Jason Garrett. When you have a line with three first rounders and a quality back in Murray, why do you want a guy who wants to throw the ball even more? I don't get it. Unless he has undergone a real conversion in his thought process, Ill be stunned if they run the ball more. They may run it less."
Gosselin: "They didn't run the ball in Detroit last year. That's one of the few teams who ran it less than the Cowboys. In this building, the owner, the GM, the head coach, the coordinator and the quarterback all want to pass. The only one guy who doesn't want to pass is DeMarco Murray and he gets out voted every time."
Last season, the Cowboys were 3rd in pass % (63.6%) while the Lions were 13th (58.8%). The raw numbers show that the Lions (445 rushing attempts) ran more than the Cowboys (336 attempts) as well, so we're not sure where Fraley and Gosselin are getting their numbers. Linehan does have a history of being pass-happy, but he ran the ball with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in 2013 and his arrival should be good for Murray in 2014.
Saturday, July 5, 2014, 8:13pm
"Drew felt some discomfort in his foot at the end of minicamp," Smith said. “We decided to send him to the doctors for some evaluations and it was determined he had suffered an injury that would require a procedure. He recently had the procedure done and we expect him to miss around six weeks."
Saturday, June 28, 2014, 2:11pm
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 7:35pm
Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman has stood out to quarterback Matt Ryan as he works with the young ball-carrier a bit. What has impressed him most is Freeman's ability to soak up the knowledge the running backs around him have: "Devonta, coming in as a rookie, there's a lot to pick up. But I thought from a playbook standpoint, he did a great job of taking things from the meeting rooms out onto the field. He's got three really good guys to learn from in Steven (Jackson), Jacquizz (Rodgers) and Antone (Smith), so I think those guys have helped him out quite a bit."
“I am back doing the little things I used to do,” Jones said. “I am back to the old Julio. I feel like I am actually stronger now. I’ve been doing back squats loading up and getting my quads more stronger more so than my hamstrings. That might have been a problem as well. (I’m trying) to balance my strength in my quads and my glutes to make sure everything is equal so I don’t put that amount of force and pressure on the outside of my foot.”
Jones was on pace for 131-1856-6.4 prior to his foot injury in Week 5. He has the potential to be the most productive receiver in the league, but the foot injury is a bit concerning, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5.
Head coach Mike Smith said after practice Tuesday that Roddy White will not practice during this week's minicamp sessions, joining receiver Julio Jones on the sidelines as watchers of practice rather than participants. But just because they're not watching doesn't mean they're not involved.
"I think if you sit back and watch Roddy and Julio when they're not participating, they're watching very intently," Smith said. "They're watching the guys that are out there playing their position so they can make comments (in the meeting room)."
Jones and White are expected to be healthy and ready for the season when training camp rolls around and all the changes that have taken place on offense could benefit them the most. Jones was on pace for a career year last season before his injury, and that was without White on the field most of the time. An improved run game and better pass protection will make the Matt Ryan-to-Jones/White connection even more deadly.
After five straight top 10 finishes, White battled injuries during the 2013 season to finish #52 in standard scoring formats. He’s over the hill, right? Not so fast. Once he finally gave his ankle some rest, he returned in Week 10 and averaged 6.1-73-0.38 over his final eight games, and 8.6-100-0.40 in his final five. If Julio Jones comes back strong, the defensive focus will turn to him, and White should benefit. But don’t be worried about targets – Matt Ryan will continue to throw Roddy's way with Tony Gonzalez out of the picture. Meanwhile, Jones was on pace for 131-1856-6.4 prior to his foot injury in Week 5. He has the potential to be the most productive receiver in the league, but the foot injury is a bit concerning, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5.
The Falcons don’t have a replacement on the roster. At OTAs last week, Mickey Shuler received a lot of action with the first-team offense. Levine Toilolo was the backup last season, and the team signed blocking tight end Bear Pascoe over the offseason.
“I think he can fit into that role really well,” Ryan said.
Douglas finished as the #32 WR in standard formats (#22 in PPR) thanks to injuries suffered by Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Falcons don’t have a solid pass-catching tight end on the roster to replace Tony Gonzalez, so Douglas is expected to fill that role. Gonzalez saw 7.5-7.8 targets per game in the last two seasons, so there is plenty of opportunity for Douglas to shine if the Falcons want to feature him in the slot.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 1:50am
Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 5:18pm
Meeting and film rooms have brought Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones together as they scour hours of game and practice film, look over and study the playbook, and work to understand and rediscover each other's on-field tendencies.
"Julio's been in this building pretty much every day this offseason and, while he hasn't been able to be out on the practice field with us yet, we've communicated a lot," Ryan said Tuesday. "We've talked a lot — certainly, (we) have watched film together and tried to work on things in the classroom so that, when we do get the opportunity to be out on the field, we can hit the ground running."
That time inside Falcons headquarters, Ryan said, is what leads him to think that any rhythm that's been lost by being off the same field for nearly a year will quickly return once Jones returns to practice.
"I certainly think, when he gets back, whenever that is, as we get closer to training camp, we're going to have plenty of time to gel up and make sure that we're on the same page," Ryan said.
Asked about the running back position, Falcons HC Mike Smith mentioned that Josh Vaughn — a former practice squad back who made the 53-man roster last season — and Antone Smith as players who have caught his eye. Mike Smith specifically said that Antone Smith has earned an "expanded role" this offseason. "When Antone had opportunities last year, he made the most of them and we want to give them opportunities moving forward," Mike Smith said. Antone Smith carried the ball five times in 2013 for 145 yards and two touchdowns with a 29-yards-per-carry average. Ryan also mentioned Antone Smith as doing a great job for the Falcons in OTAs.
He will not participate in mandatory minicamp next week. In fact, Jones told USA Today's Lindsay Jones on Monday that his goal is to be back on the field by Week 1.
"It is a serious injury, and knowing that I broke the same bone in a different spot over the course of two years," Jones said. "So it's a very serious matter, and we're not trying to play with it.
"We're taking all the precautions before throwing me back out there and just saying, 'He's ready to go,'" the wide receiver continued. "I feel great, I feel good, but at the same time, we have to take it slow because the season is still far away."
It's a bit concerning that Jones is targeting Week 1 since a setback might cause him to miss regular season games. Jones was on pace for 131-1856-6.4 prior to his foot injury in Week 5. He has the potential to be the most productive receiver in the league, but the foot injury is a worry, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5.
On the topic of the Falcons' offensive line...
How bad was this group? The Falcons used their first-round draft pick here and hired a new coach just to address the unit's poor play. Atlanta hopes rookie tackle Jake Matthews and new position coach Mike Tice, a former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, can fix a porous line that helped limit the Falcons to a league-worst 77 yards a game on the ground last year. They also signed guard Jon Asamoah from the Kansas City Chiefs to add toughness. Baker's health is the key here; if he can hold down the left side, Matthews can adjust to the NFL on the right side, where he figures to be above average from the start.
The upgrades along the line will go a long way to determining what type of season Steven Jackson has. Jackson pulled his hamstring last season, which was just one of the many injuries that plagued the Falcons in 2013. However, his FP/touch of 0.607 was not far off his career average of 0.617 prior to arriving in Atlanta. So while he was on the field, Jackson was pretty much himself. He’s no longer a 1st/2nd round pick, but with his ADP down in the 6th/7th round, he’s shaping up to be a good value as the clear RB1 for the Falcons.
Don't be surprised to see the Titans make more extensive use of the shotgun formation this season – based on Ken Whisenhunt's recent track record and Jake Locker's success out of the formation in 2013.
When Whisenhunt was offensive coordinator for the Chargers last year, quarterback Philip Rivers threw 499 passes out of the shotgun, the fourth-highest figure in the league behind Peyton Manning (566), Matt Stafford (541) and Matt Ryan (504).
In 2013, Locker connected on 88-of-138 attempts while in the shotgun (63.8 percent), totaling 964 passing yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. His 95.2 passer rating while in the shotgun was the eighth-best figure in the league, just three notches below that of Rivers.
Locker has averaged 15.1 FP in 16 career starts. That extrapolates to 241 points over a 16-game season, or about what Ryan Tannehill scored as the #16 QB in 2013. Health has been his biggest problem, but if he can stay upright, he could grow in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 6:19pm
Running back Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, was back at practice after missing last week to attend a mandatory rookie symposium in California. Mike Smith on Freeman: “He’s doing a nice job. He’s got great vision, he’s got great stop-and-start ability. The big thing that he needs to work on is the ability to work in pass protection because we ask our backs to do a lot.”
Pass protection is key for rookie running backs. The faster Freeman can catch on the better off he'll be. We're expecting Freeman to learn behind Steven Jackson for at least one season.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 6:17pm
TE Mickey Shuler, a member of the practice squad last season, ran some plays with the first-team offense as the Falcons worked on their running game. With the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, a prolific pass-catcher, the Falcons will more often line up their tight ends tight to the formation as blockers. “We have got to create a position that plays to their strengths and they are different than Tony Gonzalez,” Smith said. “Levine Toilolo is more of a ‘Y’ (inline) tight end that has some ability to play some ‘F’ (spread). Mickey is a tough guy who was on our practice squad last year and he’s getting an opportunity to play. We added Bear Pascoe he’s got a lot of starts underneath his belt.”