NFL Nation: Brian Williams

This little bit of news about cornerback Brian Williams signing with the New York Giants doesn’t really impact the Atlanta Falcons. It just demonstrates why the Falcons are doing what they are at nickel back.

They’re letting young players Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens compete for the right to be the third cornerback behind Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. That job very easily could have belonged to Williams, and there’s little doubt he would have been the safer choice.

Williams spent the past two seasons with the Falcons and played well as the third corner and even started at times. He came from Jacksonville, where Atlanta coach Mike Smith was an assistant before taking over the Falcons. In short, Williams would have been a comfortable fit for the Falcons.

But that never really was an option. The Falcons decided sometime between the end of last season and the start of the lockout that Williams wasn’t in their plans. The logic was simple. Williams is 32 and has absolutely no upside. You know what you’re getting with Williams. That’s an experienced guy, who isn’t going to make a lot of mistakes, but isn’t going to make many big plays.

The Falcons took all that into consideration and knew that Franks and Owens rarely would see the field if they brought Williams back. He was just good enough that any coaching staff would rather take the safe approach and play him over Franks and Owens.

The Falcons are letting Owens and Franks battle for the job at nickel back throughout the preseason and there have been moments where both have stepped up. Smith has yet to declare a winner in the competition and there might be some mistakes ahead.

But Owens and Franks both have upside and either one could turn out to be much better than Williams ever was. That’s why Williams was sitting out there until late August, when the Giants had a slew of injuries at cornerback and had to grasp for someone who probably won’t do anything special.

Giants looking at cornerbacks

August, 24, 2011
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A couple of days after losing starter Terrell Thomas and backup Brian Witherspoon for the season due to injuries, the New York Giants today had a bunch of cornerbacks come in for workouts. Mike Garafolo reports that there were four of them (who all left in the same van, which is downright adorable) and that two of them were Lito Sheppard and Brian Williams. Mike also checked with Randall Gay's agent, who said his client was not one of the four.

Earlier in training camp, Giants first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara suffered an injury that will keep him out for at least the first month of the season, and reserve Bruce Johnson is also out for the entire season. The team is therefore looking at several options. Mike reported via twitter that safety Antrel Rolle was with the corners at the beginning of Wednesday's practice.

I assume the Giants will sign at least one of the guys they had in today, if for no other reason than to get an extra body in there for these practices. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are going to have to handle starter's duties, but it's not a position at which you want to be caught thin. And right now, though Giants fans always get on my case for saying this about their team, the Giants are extremely thin at cornerback.
As with just about everything else in the NFL, there is huge uncertainty when it comes to the use of franchise tags.

Get ready to start hearing a lot more about this. According to the league and its teams, franchise tags can be assigned starting Thursday. According to the NFL Players Association, franchise tags cannot be used – at least until there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, which could take months.

DeAngelo Williams
Rich Kane/Icon SMIWould Carolina keep running back DeAngelo Williams by using the franchise tag?
You’re probably going to see the two sides fight this one out and some teams will probably cast the first stone by announcing Thursday, or soon after, that they are assigning franchise tags. We’ll see how that plays out in the long run. But, at very least, we can take a look at guys who could get franchise tags in the NFC South.

I just went through all my contract stuff and I’m seeing three prime candidates. Again, there is some uncertainty here because there is no labor agreement and the way any potential deal is structured could play a big role in deciding if some players are restricted or unrestricted free agents.

But the three guys that could come into play are Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, Tampa Bay offensive guard Davin Joseph and Tampa Bay linebacker Barrett Ruud. Each team can only use a franchise tag on one player, if they chose to use it at all.

We don’t know the price of 2011 franchise tags, but we can look back to 2010 as a reference point. The tag for a running back was $8.2 million. For an offensive lineman, it was $10.7 million. For a linebacker, it was $9.7 million.

Let’s take a look at the significant players for each team who currently are not under contract for 2011 and see how this might play into the situation with franchise tags. Again, some players may fall into the category of restricted free agents, depending on how a potential labor agreement is structured.

Atlanta: Mike Peterson, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling, Brian Williams, Justin Blalock, Brian Finneran, Matt Bryant, Michael Koenen, Stephen Nicholas, Brent Grimes and Eric Weems.

Summary: Grimes is coming off a breakout season and likely will be classified as a restricted free agent. Most of the veterans on this list are role players and wouldn’t be considered for the franchise tag. The two long-shot exceptions could be kicker Bryant and punter Koenen. The Falcons used the franchise tag on Koenen in 2009 and let him play for the restricted free agent tender last year. The 2010 franchise tag for punters and kickers was $2.8 million. I have a tough time seeing general manager Thomas Dimitroff using a franchise tag on a punter or kicker. The Falcons don’t really have any need to use the tag.

Tampa Bay: Ronde Barber, Barrett Ruud, Cadillac Williams, Davin Joseph, Stylez G. White, John Gilmore, Maurice Stovall, Jeremy Trueblood, Quincy Black, Tim Crowder and Adam Hayward.

Summary: The Bucs should have a ton of cap room to work with, so they should be able to handle a franchise tag easily. But it remains to be seen if they want to use it on either of the two realistic candidates: Joseph or Ruud. Joseph is a guy they want to keep in the middle of their offensive line, but they might be able to work a long-term deal that would be a lot more cap friendly. Ruud has made it clear to the Bucs for two years that he would like a long-term contract. That’s never happened. Maybe he’s just not in their long-range plans.

New Orleans: Jonathan Goodwin, Scott Shanle, Roman Harper, Darren Sharper, Jimmy Wilkerson, Lance Moore, Jermon Bushrod, Pierre Thomas, Anthony Hargrove, Courtney Roby, David Thomas, Remi Ayodele, Heath Evans and Carl Nicks.

Summary: The Saints have more than 20 potential free agents and even the guys I singled out above aren’t huge stars. Nicks is probably the best player on the list. But he has three years of service in and almost certainly would qualify as a restricted free agent in any new agreement. Goodwin’s a good player, but I think the Saints would rather take their chances on working a new deal with him than using the franchise tag on a center.

Carolina: Thomas Davis, Matt Moore, DeAngelo Williams, Jeff King, Richard Marshall, James Anderson, Ryan Kalil, Charles Johnson and Dante Rosario.

Summary: Kalil and Johnson are key players, but they could end up as restricted free agents. Williams is the key guy. The Panthers have depth at running back with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson. But Stewart has had durability issues and Williams is a playmaker on a team that needs all the offense it can get. Maybe the Panthers try to work a long-term deal with Williams, but they might try to protect him in the short term by using the franchise tag.
Early Sunday morning, I suggested that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers produced one of the best performances of a generation in a 48-21 rout of the Atlanta Falcons. Before we get pulled in to the Epicenter of Humanity, I wanted to offer some further context and background to that claim.

First up: Our friends over at Football Outsiders, who use their own methods for evaluating performances -- essentially determining the extent to which a player achieves above the league average for such circumstances. By that measure, Rodgers' performance was the fourth-best playoff game by a quarterback over the past 18 seasons.

(Earlier: Rodgers' Week 16 performance against the New York Giants was the 11th-best regular-season performance over that same span. Bill Barnwell provides further details on Saturday night's game in an ESPN Insider piece.)

Second, we've already noted that Rodgers' 86.1 completion percentage was the fifth-best mark in NFL postseason history. But as the chart shows, it was the second-best among quarterbacks who also threw for at least 300 yards. It's an important distinction because it combined efficiency with proficiency. Downfield passes, which gain more yards, are usually less likely to be completed.


Finally, Rodgers is now one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to produce a game with these parameters: At least 300 yards passing, at least 80 percent completions, at least three touchdowns and no interceptions. Here is the full list:


These facts and figures provide some footing for what seemed visually evident Saturday night. It's true that the Falcons were playing without nickelback Brian Williams. But I'm leery of attaching too much significance to the absence of a nickelback, and the Falcons were still managing a decent pass rush. Remember, they sacked Rodgers twice and he spun away from at least four other near-sacks.

Given the stage and the circumstances, and adding in a tough 7-yard run for a touchdown in the third quarter, it was as complete a performance as I've seen in person. Sometimes the adrenaline of a live event can impair judgment, but I don't think that happened in this case.
James StarksDale Zanine/US PresswireThe Falcons' defense couldn't corral running back James Starks and the Packers.
ATLANTA -- Their season is over. That “process’’ that the Atlanta Falcons always talk about? Well, we found out Saturday night that it’s far from complete.

After showing signs (a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs) all season that they had turned a corner and had a shot at the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, the Falcons got a hard dose of reality. Despite all those bright spots, the Falcons haven’t arrived just yet.

You can’t be a championship team -- or anything really close to it -- when you’re getting trounced by the sixth-seeded Green Bay Packers 48-21 in your home building. What happened in the Georgia Dome might not take all that long to sink in because the flaws were so obvious.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (31-of-36 for 366 yards, three touchdowns and a 136.8 passer rating) had a game for the ages. Atlanta’s defense had a game that clearly showed that, even after two offseasons of focusing on upgrading that side of the ball, it still needs some pretty major work.

“It was a very disappointing evening for our football team and for our fans,’’ Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. “We will come back from it. I can assure you of that.’’

Smith uses the “process’’ theme more than anyone and has since the day he arrived in Atlanta in 2008. Now, it’s going to be up to Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff to figure out how to take the next steps in going from a team that’s very good in the regular season to one that can carry that right through the postseason.

When they watch the film of the Green Bay game, there will be some pretty huge clues and most of them stem from the defensive side. It first should be noted that the Falcons were playing without injured nickel back Brian Williams. But it also should be noted that playing without an injured nickel back shouldn’t be reason enough for a good team to lose.

[+] EnlargeJohn Abraham
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJohn Abraham and the Falcons sacked Aaron Rodgers twice but could have had more.
Second-year pro Christopher Owens struggled mightily filling in for Williams. But Owens shouldn’t be singled out for making mistakes. A lot of other guys on the defense had problems too, but Owens serves nicely as a symbol for where this defense truly is.

After working mostly on the offense (bringing in quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner in their first year), Smith and Dimitroff spent the past two seasons trying to get the defense to catch up with the offense. Rodgers’ performance showed the defense isn’t where it needs to be yet.

The Falcons need players such as Owens, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (this season’s first-round pick) and defensive tackle Peria Jerry (last season’s first-round pick) to become impact players. But it’s not just about young guys stepping up.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson, Atlanta’s lone significant free-agent pickup this season, was beaten several times as Green Bay put together four touchdown drives of 80 yards or more. Safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, who showed most of the season that they are developing more quickly than Weatherspoon and Jerry, also deserve some blame for Green Bay’s success. And let’s not forget the pass rush, which was a major problem for the Falcons last season. Despite that, the Falcons didn’t make any major personnel moves up front this season. Instead, they gambled that signing Robinson would provide better coverage that would lead to more sacks and they took a leap of faith that veteran defensive end John Abraham would bounce back after a quiet 2009 season.

Those gambles worked in the regular season as Abraham produced 13 sacks. But the regular season looked like a mirage Saturday night. The Falcons sacked Rodgers twice.

“We had opportunities to get him on the ground,’’ Smith said. “We had free runners, but we didn’t convert.’’

Speaking of converting, the usually efficient Atlanta offense didn’t do much of that. Ryan, who now is 0-2 in the postseason, could only watch as Rodgers had a game that firmly established him as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. Ryan started off well, but that quickly faded. He threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 70 yards by Tramon Williams on the final play of the first half to give Green Bay a 28-14 lead. With Turner getting only one carry in the second half and finishing the game with 10 carries for 39 yards, the Falcons produced only two offensive touchdowns (the third came on a kickoff return by Eric Weems). Ryan completed 20 of 29 passes for one touchdown and had a 69.0 passer rating.

“Any time you’re in the playoffs, you have an opportunity to go win it all,’’ Ryan said. “It’s disappointing when that doesn't happen.’’

There was plenty of disappointment in the Atlanta locker room after the game. But there also were some strong undercurrents of hope for the future.

“We will learn from it,’’ Smith said. “There’s a whole body of work that we put together and that can’t be forgotten.’’

“We’re still a very young team in the big scope of things,’’ Dimitroff said. “We have a lot of third- and fourth-year players as our core and we’ve been very encouraged by their development. They need to keep developing and we need to keep moving forward.’’

There is change with every NFL team every year and the Falcons won’t be an exception. Smith and Dimitroff won’t sit still. They’ll continue with the process and they’ll address the needs that became so obvious against the Packers.

“We’ve got a lot of good things to build on from what we did this year,’’ Ryan said.

He’s got a point. Players such as Ryan, Roddy White, Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Babineaux all are in their prime or nearing it. Players such as Abraham, center Todd McClure and tight end Tony Gonzalez are aging, but they also still played at a high level this season and could keep going.

“The future of this team is bright,’’ said Gonzalez, who is 34 and said he won’t make any decision about his future until he has a little time to relax and think a bit, but added he still loves football and feels healthy. “This is going to be one of the glamour teams of the NFL for the next five or six years. I guarantee you that.’’

Well, a guarantee might be a little strong. But the point is, the Falcons have the core in place. They just need to make a few more moves to finish the process.

Brian Williams out for Falcons

January, 15, 2011
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ATLANTA -- As expected, Atlanta cornerback Brian Williams will miss tonight’s playoff game against Green Bay.

He didn’t practice all week due to a knee injury and has been put on the inactive list tonight. That means Christopher Owens will have to step into Williams’ role as a nickel back. A second-year pro, Owens isn’t nearly as experienced as Williams. Owens runs well, but is undersized and isn’t known as a physical player. The Packers may try to target Owens when he’s on the field.

Also inactive for the Falcons are linebacker Spencer Adkins, offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds, guard Mike Johnson, tight end Michael Palmer, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and defensive tackle Trey Lewis. John Parker Wilson has been designated as the third quarterback.

Falcons nickelback won't play

January, 15, 2011
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ATLANTA -- The most interesting pregame roster maneuver at Georgia Dome left the Atlanta Falcons without their usual nickelback. Brian Williams (knee) was deactivated, and second-year player Chris Owens is expected to handle that role.

It will be interesting to see if Williams' injury compels the Green Bay Packers to use their five-receiver set. They used it 14 times in the teams' Week 12 meeting.

Meanwhile, the Packers deactivated safety Atari Bigby (groin) and fullback Korey Hall (knee). Both had been listed as questionable on the injury report.

Final Word: Packers at Falcons

January, 14, 2011
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Divisional Final Word: Ravens-Steelers | Jets-Patriots | Packers-Falcons | Seahawks-Bears

Three nuggets of knowledge on Saturday’s playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.

[+] EnlargeJohn Abraham and Aaron Rodgers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJohn Abraham (92) has 13 sacks this season, including one of Aaron Rodgers in Atlanta's Week 12 win over Green Bay.
Forgotten Falcons. The Falcons can take some comfort in being at home, where they were 7-1 this season, and that they beat Green Bay in a regular-season meeting in late November. But the Packers aren’t the same team they were in late November. They’re better. After getting two must-win games at the end of the regular season and defeating Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs last week, the Packers are the “hot’’ team right now. With a first-round bye, Atlanta has somewhat become a forgotten team in the national media. The Falcons can change all that by going out and doing the things they did to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Defense wins championships. When you think of the Falcons, you think of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. But I’ve got a hunch those offensive guys won’t be the most important people in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. I think this game’s going to be similar to the November regular-season meeting between the Falcons and Packers. Atlanta won that game 17-14 and the Falcons played one of their best defensive games of the year. I think they need to do something similar this time, and the guy I’m going to be keeping an eye on is John Abraham. With a week of rest, I expect Abraham to be able to put some pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Abraham had 13 sacks in the regular season, and he’s getting near the end of his career. He’s got a shot at the Hall of Fame, but his résumé would look dramatically better if the Falcons won this game, the NFC championship and at least made it to the Super Bowl.

Next man up. With veteran cornerback Brian Williams dealing with a knee injury, the Falcons may have to turn to Christopher Owens as their nickelback. A second-year pro, Owens has had some playing time at nickelback this season, but he hasn’t thrived. He’s undersized and isn’t known for being a very physical defender. That could make him a target for the Green Bay offense.

Falcons-Packers: Final injury report

January, 14, 2011
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I just received the final injury reports on the Falcons and Packers for Saturday night’s playoff game. Let’s take a look.

Atlanta. Cornerback Brian Williams (knee) is doubtful and did not practice all week. That means Christopher Owens likely will work as the nickel back. Atlanta has six other guys on the injury report and they all are listed as questionable. They are defensive end John Abraham (groin), defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), safety Thomas DeCoud (ankle), linebacker Curtis Lofton (knee), center Todd McClure (ankle) and receiver Roddy White (knee). But I think you’ll see all six of those guys playing Saturday. They all went through the full practice Friday after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday.

Green Bay. The Packers are listing safety Atari Bigby (groin), fullback Korey Hall and offensive lineman Jason Spitz (calf) as questionable, and have declared linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) as out. They have eight other guys on the injury report, but all of those are listed as probable.

Friday injury report: Packers-Falcons

January, 14, 2011
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Getting inside the Friday injury report a day before Packers-Falcons:

Green Bay Packers: Linebacker Frank Zombo has been declared out. Safety Atari Bigby (groin) is questionable but has a good chance to be available. Offensive lineman Jason Spitz would have returned to practice Friday if the Packers had held one, and for that reason he is listed as questionable. Fullback Korey Hall (knee) is questionable, but seems to have a decent chance of being available. All other members of the 53-man roster should be available.

Atlanta Falcons: Cornerback Brian Williams (knee) is doubtful. The Falcons listed six players as questionable, but all of them participated in Friday's practice and appear on track to be available Saturday.

NFC North injury report

January, 12, 2011
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Updating the injury situations for this weekend’s pair of division playoff games:

Chicago Bears: Cornerback Charles Tillman didn’t practice Wednesday because of an illness. All other players participated in at least a portion of practice.

Seattle Seahawks: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) didn't practice and was the only player listed on the Seahawks injury report. Coach Pete Carroll told Chicago-area media that Tatupu is on track to play Sunday.

Green Bay Packers: Two players missed practice Wednesday: Linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) and offensive lineman Jason Spitz (calf). The guess is that neither will be available Saturday night. Safety Atari Bigby (groin) participated on a limited basis and has a chance to play. The Packers don’t seem to have any other significant injury concerns.

Atlanta Falcons: The only player who sat out practice was cornerback Brian Williams (knee). My NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas suggests that most everyone else on the roster is healthy.

Dunta Robinson sitting out for Falcons

October, 24, 2010
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ATLANTA -- As expected, cornerback Dunta Robinson will be inactive for the Falcons today.

Robinson is coming off a concussion last week and the Falcons are looking at the long term. After today’s game with the Bengals, they have a bye week, allowing Robinson more time to recover.

Christopher Owens will start in Robinson’s place and veteran Brian Williams likely will be the nickelback. The Falcons also will be without injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Stephen Nicholas will start in Weatherspoon's place.

Also inactive for the Falcons are tight end Justin Peelle, tackle Garrett Reynolds, defensive tackle Trey Lewis, running back Antone Smith, guard Mike Johnson and John Parker Wilson is the third quarterback.

Dunta Robinson unlikely for Falcons

October, 24, 2010
10/24/10
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ATLANTA -- I just got into the Georgia Dome, and I’m looking for signs of cornerback Dunta Robinson.

I don’t see any signs of him among the handful of players already warming up on the field. Robinson suffered a concussion last week and is listed as questionable for today’s game with the Bengals. There’s a very remote chance the Falcons might test Robinson this morning and clear him to play.

But I’d be very surprised if that happens. Robinson’s too valuable to risk losing for the long term. With a bye next week, I’m pretty sure the Falcons will do the smart thing and sit Robinson.

That means Christopher Owens, Brent Grimes and Brian Williams will serve as Atlanta’s top three cornerbacks. I'll let you know Robinson's status for certain in about an hour when we get the official list of inactives.
Christopher OwensAP Photo/Hans DerykCornerback Christopher Owens' preseason performance may have earned him a starting job.
I had to get very creative because Atlanta’s game at Miami wasn’t available on local television at NFC South Blog Headquarters. I’m watching the Saints and Chargers on local television, but I kept up on the Falcons throughout the night.

With a little help from satellite radio, the wonderful work of my buddies Daniel Cox and Jay Adams at the Falcons’ team website, some live stats and play-by-play and a bunch of text messages from a Falcons official who is in the press box in Miami, I was able to get a feel for what the Falcons did. Here are my thoughts and observations:

  • Cornerback Dunta Robinson didn’t play for the third straight preseason game, even though there was some speculation he might go against Miami. I wouldn’t be too worried about this one. My Atlanta official in the press box said the team is just being cautious with its high-priced free agent. The main goal is to make sure Robinson’s healthy for the start of the regular season.
  • Speaking of cornerbacks, it sure seems like Christopher Owens has done what he needed to in order to earn the starting job opposite Robinson. Owens stripped a ball away from Brandon Marshall and brought enough pressure on a blitz to allow Kroy Biermann to sack Chad Henne.
  • Speaking of Biermann, he’s had a sack in each of the first three preseason games. Could be part of what the Falcons need to upgrade their pass rush.
  • Speaking of the pass rush, it sounded like the Falcons were using lots of blitzes, including a couple by rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Hope we see a lot more of that in the regular season. The defense looks a lot faster and that’s largely because of Weatherspoon’s arrival.
  • It’s only the preseason and you never should read too much into that. However, if you’re going to try to read anything into one preseason game, do it for the first half of the third game, when most of the starters play all the way. That’s why Atlanta fans should be encouraged by the following defensive numbers from the first half: The Dolphins converted on only one third down in the first half. The Falcons also held Miami to 10 rushing yards.
  • Trey Lewis got the start at defensive tackle next to Jonathan Babineaux, but Peria Jerry came into the rotation and got his first playing time since tearing up his knee early in his rookie season. Didn’t sound like Jerry made any big plays, but all indications were he seemed to be moving around quite nicely. He also got to play against his brother, John, who is a rookie offensive guard for the Dolphins.
  • Eric Weems had a big kickoff return to set up Atlanta’s first-quarter touchdown. This guy’s got a roster spot as a backup receiver. But, more importantly, he’s become a core special-teams player.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan started off a little rough and his receivers had a few drops. But Ryan came on and threw a touchdown pass to Roddy White. He also had a nice throw to Harry Douglas, who is coming back from injury, and made some other nice plays. Once again, Ryan looked good in the no-huddle offense. I hope we see a lot more of that this season and I hope we don’t see any more of that ugly 2-yard run Ryan had Friday night.
  • Good to hear defensive backs Brian Williams and William Moore, who both had major injuries last year, made their preseason debuts early in the second half.
  • All right, I’m going to go ahead and post this now that the backups are taking over, so I can focus in on the New Orleans game because I’ll also have an observation package on the Saints later Friday night.

Observations on the Falcons

August, 19, 2010
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The Atlanta Falcons have been a trendy pick lately to win the NFC South and maybe go deep into the preseason.

If you put any stock at all into preseason games, it might be time to tone down the Atlanta hype a bit. In Thursday night’s 28-10 loss to New England, there weren’t many bright spots for the Falcons. A few observations:
  • A defense that looked good in the preseason opener, suffered a major letdown against the Patriots. The run defense was not good at all and the pass defense was no better. But keep in mind, the Falcons were playing without defensive tackle Peria Jerry and cornerbacks Dunta Robinson, Brian Williams and Brent Grimes.
  • The one bright spot for the defense might have been the play of defensive end Kroy Biermann, who had a sack and a tackle for a loss on a run play. Biermann’s one of several defensive linemen the Falcons think can emerge this season and, so far, he’s been doing that. Lawrence Sidbury, another young defensive end the Falcons have high hopes for, came up with a sack late in the game.
  • The first-team offense didn’t look bad. Matt Ryan was sharp and Michael Turner ran well and caught a couple balls out of the backfield. The Falcons even got receiver Harry Douglas into the lineup for the first time since he tore up his knee in training camp last season. But the Falcons weren’t able to get the ball into the end zone with the first offense.
  • One thing I liked that the Falcons did while Ryan was in the game was use a lot of the no-huddle offense. Ryan did well when the Falcons used that in his rookie year, but they kind of got away from it last season.
  • In a sign that they haven’t decided on a backup quarterback, John Parker Wilson followed Ryan and got extensive playing time. They know what they have in veteran Chris Redman and wanted to see more of Wilson. He did some good things, particularly showing his ability to throw on the run. But Wilson was far from perfect and I don’t know if he did enough to win the backup job just yet.

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