Today our summer tape study series takes a look at the Atlanta Falcons.
When you study the Falcons, the first thing you notice on their offense is the ability of their wide receivers to stretch the field. The question for the Falcons will be if new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will keep that same thought process that former coordinator Mike Murlarkey had.
Let me start off by saying that I am a huge Julio Jones fan. For a young player, he gets it. He is a solid route runner, he catches the ball well and he is able to adjust without losing any of his speed. Mularkey did a nice job of trying to create opportunities to get the ball in his hands. Normal routes, screens and reverses out of bunch formation, it didn't matter, Murlarkey found a way to make plays with him. Jones is an explosive player. He can cover a lot of ground in a hurry when he goes vertical. He is also one of those guys that you have to watch in the red zone because he has a feel for how to find openings but he also is a nice player in the air.
On the other side is Roddy White and he like Jones is a play-maker. I think that White's greatest strength is his ability to adjust to any type of pass that is thrown. If tight end Tony Gonzalez is a quarterback's best friend, then so is Roddy White. White is really good along the sideline, with the way he manages to keep his feet in bounds when making catches. The Falcons situation is very similiar to the Cowboys in that you have the two wide receivers that can make plays paired with a tight end that also functions well up the field.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is a puzzling player to me. There are times where he looks brilliant in the way he directs the offense and then you study him in the playoffs and you swear the Falcons are playing with their third quarterback. Ryan is in his fourth season as a starter, but you now hear more about his playoff failures than the numbers that he puts up during the regular season. Ryan is night and day when it comes to what you see from him in the playoffs. In the Wild Card game against the Giants last season, his accuracy was terrible. He looked rattled and he played that way. The poise and confidence that you see during the regular season was nowhere to be found. If you go back and study the playoff game against the Packers in 2010, he had the same problems as well. When you talk to scouts around the league, the one thing that they all say about Ryan is that he does not handle the rush well. The more pressure you put on him, the harder it is for him to make a play.
At running back, Michael Turner is a physical battering ram. There is nothing pretty about his game when you watch him bounce off tacklers. He has an interesting running style in that his feet barely leave the ground. He is far from a high-knee runner. I didn't see many opportunities to catch the ball in space and if he has a weakness, he is a poor pass protector.
On the offensive line there are a couple of weak points, first being at left tackle with Sam Baker and right guard Garrett Reynolds. Baker doesn't play with much balance or strength. Trent Cole of the Eagles walked him straight back into Ryan a couple of times. Reynolds tends to give up the edge in pass protection and, like Baker, doesn't do a good enough job of playing with power. The best lineman for the club is Tyson Clabo at right tackle.
On defense it's a four-man line with Ray Edwards, who got the best of Marc Colombo in the Minnesota playoff game three years ago, at one end and John Abraham at the other. There will be times whem Edwards and Abraham will flip sides on the rush. The majority of the time you will see a four man rush with some twist stunts. In the Philadelphia contest they used some blitz pressure with the safety. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux can get up the field in the running game.
I was not impressed at all with the linebackers on this team. Lofa Tatupu takes over in the middle. I have always thought that he was too small to handle the job in the middle and Stephen Nicholas is just a guy on the strong side. The one linebacker that can really run is Sean Weatherspoon on the weakside. He plays with a burst and had a nice sack in the Green Bay game but again, other than him, i really don't like this group.
In the secondary, Brent Grimes is an outstanding football player at corner. Grimes plays with quickness and a burst. He knows how to read routes and always seemed to be in position to knock the ball down. He is a physical player when it comes to making tackles, causing a fumble in the Houston game. I really wish that he could have gotten to free agency, but it didn't happen. He would have been a great get. Asante Samuel takes over at right corner. Samuel has cover skills but wants nothing to do with the physical side of the game. When he was with the Eagles, I always felt that his was a side you could attack on the edge. He is a gambler and a guesser so it will be interesting to see how he plays when he doesn't have a great pass rush in front of him.