RECORDS & AWARDS
NFL PREVIEW: ATLANTA FALCONS
July 5, 2012Richmond High School
Atlanta Falcons...KELCI BAKER, EIHSS SPORTS
Last year: 10-6, 2nd in NFC South, lost in wild card game
After their second consecutive playoff trip, the Falcons are taking slow and steady steps towards being a force in the Super Bowl race after a 13 win season. With rookie wide receiver Julio Jones and quarterback Matt Ryan, the offense was efficient. But there's another problem. The protection surrounding Ryan needs to step up as well as their conversions of short-yardage situations. That was evident when they dropped from first to 16th on fourth down conversions in the league last season.
The defense needs to be more consistent. Against the run, they had their moments but against the pass and on third downs they were shaky at best. Coordinator Mike Nolan runs a 4-3 defense despite usually favoring the 3-4. But a new buzzword has infiltrated the Falcons defense, "Multiple." After receiving approval from Smith, Nolan has been given permission to put more than three-man fronts in passing situations. In third-down defense last season, the Falcons were 29th. By giving up their seventh-round pick to get Asante Samuel, the Falcons will see improvement in their pass coverage. The big three of Samuel, Dunta Robinson, and Brent Grimes who will cover the position. The hole will be punched in the run defense with Curtis Lofton leaving for free agency. In- line for middle linebacker are second-year man Akeem Dent as well as former Pro Bowler Lofa Tatupu. Along with that, the pass-rushing rotation will be forced to improve in order to help John Abraham who will be 34.
A conventional power run with vertical passing is the style of the offense which is led by coordinator Dirk Koetter. Matt Ryan, in four years, has a 41-19 record. Re-signing after 39 catches is slot reciever Harry Douglas. Douglas is expected tol make a huge impact. Ryan is also flanked by Michael Turner, a 1,300-yard back, wide receivers Jones and Roddy White, and an amazing tight end in Tony Gonzalez. Progress was almost completely lost because this offense gave up 26 sacks and 84 quarterback hits, seventh most in the league. Coach Mike Smith as announced openings for all positions. When it comes to the “O” line, the answer for the Falcons is guard-center Peter Konz drafted from Wisconsin during the second round as well as Lamar Holmes, a tackle the Falcons picked in the third round. Getting a shot at right guard will be Konz, but eventually, the Falcons plan to have him ready to take over at center. As for the two open tackle spots, it's anyone’s guess as to who will grab those positions.
Special teams stayed strong under coordinator Keith Armstrong for the Falcons. It took some time but kicker Matt Bosher eventually melded well in the team dynamic. Having to replace Eric Weems will be a challenge. Leaving in free agency, Weems was the top punt and kickoff returner as well as a top tackler on the coverage units. To replace Weems, the Falcons signed several potential returner men from the undrafted rookie class such as James Rodgers who is the brother of Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Also returning to the team is Matt Bryant who made 27 of his 29 field goal attempts last season, setting a franchise record of 30 consecutive makes.
Coaching for the Falcons have shifted drastically with new coordinators Nolan and Koetter joining the team as well as offensive line coach and former head coach at Fresno State, Pat Hill. All of them will be under a microscope. Hill hasn't coached in the NFL since the 1990's when he was a tight end/offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
2012 Draft Recap
With 6 picks in the NFL draft, their best pick camp with C-G Peter Konz from Wisconsin. With a nice anchor point in pass protection, he pulled and trapped from the center position with the Badgers. "He's going to start at the guard position for us, but he will get some work at center as well," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We'll start cross-training these guys from the very beginning."
C-G Peter Konz. Wisconsin
Second round. 55th overall
T Lamar Holmes. Southern Mississippi
Third round. 91st overall
Although he was thought to be a pick for a later round, the Falcons picked the big, strong blocker in the third. He will get an opportunity to take over the left tackle position
FB Bradie Ewing. Wisconsin
Fifth round. 157th overall
Due to the issues with short-yardage situations last season as well as fullback Ovie Mughelli suffering a season-ending knee injury (released), Ewing will be used to help boost morale in that area.
DE Jonathan Massaquoi. Troy
Fifth round. 164th overall
Troy has also produced players such as DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora. Massaquoi has a lot of experience on special teams, which will help him make the list
SS Charles Mitchell. Mississippi State
Sixth round. 192nd overall
A hard hitter with 188 tackles and four interceptions in his college career, Mitchell should help contribute to special teams this coming season
DT Travian Robertson. South Carolina
Seventh round. 249th overall
Strong at the point of attack, the Falcons will use Robertson to add girth to the middle of their defense
2012 FALCONS SCHEDULE
The schedule features the traditional home and away matchups with the other NFC South teams, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa. It also features the AFC South this year.
The schedule is heavy on the AFC South at the beginning this season. The Falcons open on the road in Kansas City before returning home to host the Broncos in the third Monday night game of 2012. Atlanta will return to the road on Week 3, traveling to San Diego. They finish up the AFC West portion of the schedule against Oakland, at home, in Week 6. The Falcons are 5-0 at San Diego and under head coach Mike Smith they are 5-0 on west coast trips.
One interesting characteristic of this year’s schedule is that the Falcons will not play back-to-back home or road games all season, a rarity in the NFL. Last season, Atlanta played back-to-back road games three different times.
Atlanta will get plenty of national coverage during 2012. They’ll play four nationally televised games, including the Monday night Denver matchup. The Falcons will also face Dallas in Week 9 on Sunday night, New Orleans on Thursday night in Week 13 and the Lions in Week 16 on Saturday night.
The Week 16 Monday night affair against the Lions marks the third year in a row the Falcons will play the final Monday night game of the season. Due to the Christmas holiday, the game will be played on Saturday night, December 22.
The Falcons’ game against the Giants marks the third consecutive season they will face the defending Super Bowl Champions of the previous year.
Five of the final eight games on the season will be against NFC South opponents, including New Orleans twice during that stretch.
The Falcons bye week this season comes in Week 7, sandwiched between the home game against Oakland and a road game against Philadelphia.
It’s the fifth straight season the Falcons will face the Eagles and Atlanta’s final game of the season comes against the Bucs, the third time in four seasons this has happened.
The 2012 opponents’ record last season is 125-131 and in total, the Falcons have won 161 games against their 2012 foes. Since 2008, the Falcons have a 22-16 record against its 2012 opponents.
Week 1 - Sunday September 9 - at Kansas City Chiefs - 1:00 PM - FOX