Falcons Recap:Week 2

by Dre McClendon

After dropping their first game 31-24 to their division rival the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Atlanta Falcons were looking to get on track as they traveled to California to take on the Oakland Raiders. Let’s recap all the action that happened on the field:

Offense- After a disappointing showing in the run game. It was a significant improvement this game as the Falcons gained 139 yards on the ground. Devonta Freeman had 17 carries for 93 yards, while Tevin Coleman had 12 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. Matt Ryan continued his stellar play, completing 26 of 34 passes for 396 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Julio Jones (5 receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown) and Jacob Tamme (5 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdowns) were among the leading receivers for the Falcons passing attack.

Defense: The Falcons defensive struggles continued. While Vic Beasley recorded his first sack of the season, the pass rush was once again non existent. Sloppy tackling, bad angles, and penalties continue to plague the defense. This defense must improve in order for the Falcons to be considered playoff contenders.

Summary: Falcons defeated the Raiders by a score of 35-28. Up next, a Monday Night Showdown in New Orleans against their heated division rival the New Orleans Saints.

Falcons recap Week 1

After the training camps and preseason, Week 1 officially kicked off for the Atlanta Falcons as they welcomed their NFC South division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to the Georgia Dome. Let’s do a recap of the action that took place.

Offense: While the running game was slow, with only 52 yards total (Tevin Coleman with 22 yards and Devonta Freeman with 20 yards), Matt Ryan got the passing going, completing 27 of 39 passes for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns, one to Julio Jones and one to newest Falcon Mohamed Sanu. Sanu finished the day with 5 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Julio caught 4 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown.

Defense: There can be alot of words to describe the defensive showing by the Falcons, but one word sticks out the most: undisciplined. Sloppy tackling, blown coverages and penalties that extended some of Tampa Bays drives led to the ultimate downfall. Once again, lack of a pass rush showed as the Falcons defense had a grand total of zero sacks and putting no pressure on Buccaneers Quarterback Jameis Winston as he constantly found his receivers downfield. 

Summary: Final Score was Buccaneers 31 and the Falcons 24, Falcons outgained the Buccaneers 374-371. The Falcons will travel to Oakland to take on Raiders. 

Falcons Preseason Recap: Week 3

After posting a 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, the Atlanta Falcons headed to Orlando for a preseason tilt with the Miami Dolphins. Here is a recap of what took place on the field.

Offense: It seemed like the offense could never get on track as the offensive line seemed to be overmatched against the stout Dolphins front seven. The running game never got going as they only mustered 31 yards total. Matt Ryan played well into the second half, going 12 for 22 for a 129 yards, but threw a costly interception in the red zone. Matt Schaub continued his consistent play, going 10 for 11 for 109 yards and continues to make a case for the backup role. Julio Jones only had 1 reception for 17 yards, while Aldrick Robinson was the high man with 3 receptions for 70 yards. 

Defense: Besides the interception by Desmond Truant, the Falcons defense looked lackadaisical and uninspired. Pass Rush was non existent, as the Falcons collected zero sacks. This could be a concern for the team as the Falcons finished dead last in sacks last year with 19. 

Summary: This was a game that the team and fans most likely will want to forget as the Falcons fell to the Dolphins 17-6. On top of that, the injury bug made its rounds and took out some key players (hopefully not serious for some). We have two weeks till Week 1 so hopefully the kinks will be worked out and the health of the players will be good to go as the Falcons prepare for their final preseason game. 

The “Sports Page 1 Elite” Staff Writer’s NFL Preview: NFC South

Carolina Panthers

Michael Eccleston predicts 13-3 division champs.

Yes, Carolina will regress from 15 wins to 13 because, well, it just isn’t very likely that happens two seasons in a row. Outside of Josh Norman signing with the Washington Redskins, it’s pretty much the same story here. They still have the reigning MVP of the league in Cam Newton, they get top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back after he missed all of last year because of injury, and they still have Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr., and Devin Funchess on the offensive side of the ball. Runningback Jonathan Stewart will continue to be solid because of the dual-threat Newton is. On the defensive side of the ball, they’re still led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. The addition of Shaq Thompson will help as well. I expect more of the same from the Panthers who will be hungry after losing to the Denver Broncos in this past Super Bowl. They take this division convincingly. Michael Eccleston 

Ralph predicts 14-2, division champs.

The Panthers will once again finish at the top of this division, for good reason, Cam Newton is the second best running back on the team behind starter Jonathan Stewart.On any given play Cam can run for the first down yardage or more.

The Panthers front 7 is still intact and just as dominant as last year.

The Panthers get Kelvin Benjamin back, the wide receiver added 1000 plus yard in 2014, something the Panthers missed last year when KB went down with an injury in pre-season. Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen carried most of the load last season but now they get the man back.

One glaring weak spot on the Panthers offense is the tackle position, we seen Von Miller absolutely destroy them last year in the championship game. If the tackles can’t set the edge against formidable pass rushers, it may be their achilles heel.

Finally, we all know Josh Norman left the team and Charles Tillman retired. the Panthers tried to fill in the spots with draft picks but I don’t think it will be enough. The young DB’s will benefit from a very strong front 7 to help cover their weaknesses, but eventually they may be exposed.

Still, the Panthers have way too many weapons to not have a strong season. Ralph 

Scott Brown predicts 12-4, division champs.

The Carolina Panthers finished last year 15-1 and won the NFC championship. But, they could have issues with their secondary after losing Josh Norman. They did draft Vernon Butler improving their pass rush. But, Greg Olsen, one of the best tight ends in the league is suffering back issues in the pre-season. Scott Brown 

Antwon predicts 11-5 division champs 

The Panthers are coming off one of the best seasons in the teams franchise history with a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance. Cam Newton was spectacular in 2015 as he pulled out all the stops on his way to the NFL MVP award. Their defense took some losses this offseason but they still should be on top of this division at seasons end. Look for them to make another run at the big game. Antwon 

Brian Jones predicts 11-5, division champs.

 Although they won’t run roughshod over this division (or the NFL) like they did last season, Carolina won’t have any problems repeating as division champion. Cam Newton is a year wiser and I believe he’ll learn from the Super Bowl loss and grow from it on the field (press conferences are another story). Kelvin Benjamin returns from injury to add another weapon on offense and the defense should be in the top 5 again. They’ll win the division with relative ease. Brian Jones

J. Russell Zinn predicts 14-2, division Champs, number 1 NFC seed.

Add one top flight number 1 wr. Subtract one top tier system cb. Where does that leave us? Still the best team in football. It took a perfect game plan by an all time defense to stop them in the superbowl. Now they are angry. They have the best running qb ever, who happens to be the 2nd best qb in the league. They are on a mission, they have a tough schedule they could end up only 11-5 with it….but they are also capable of going undefeated with it. I think they’ll lose 2, only because they know now they want to keep something in the tank for the playoffs. Good luck to Green Bay or Arizona, they’ll need a perfect game to subplant Carolina as the NFC team in the superbowl this season. J.Russell Zinn

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Michael Eccleston predicts 9-7, second in division 

The Bucs will be a very interesting team to watch this season. Jameis Winston had a very good rookie year throwing for over 4,000 yards. That doesn’t happen very often. Third year wide receiver Mike Evans looks to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing season in 2015 dropping from 10 touchdowns the year before to 3 last season. Running Back, Doug Martin, was dreadful in 2014, but came back to life last season. I expect Martin to continue to have success as Winston progresses. Defensively, they are led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and young outside linebacker Lavonte David. They also have an interesting group of cornerbacks with Alterraun Verner, Brent Grimes, and one of the best cornerbacks in the draft in Vernon Hargreaves. This is a young, upcoming team with a new head coach and as Winston continues to get more comfortable, I expect them to improve a lot, especially considering I don’t trust either the Saints or the Falcons… Michael Eccleston 

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 97, second in division. 

This is a team that will rise faster then anyone is ready for. Why? Jameis Winston. He is part of the plethora of megatalented young qbs to hit the league in the last 4 years (only the early 80s have seen the NFL blessed with so much talent at the position at once) Winston may be the best pure passer of the bunch. Tampa will make some noise. They aren’t good enough to make the playoffs in the tough NFC but will be in contention until the last snap of the season. J.Russell  Zinn

Scott Brown predicts 3-13, last in division 

Tampa Bay finished last season at 6-10. Their offense struggled in pre-season joint practices with Jacksonville and Cleveland. They did upgrade their defense with Robert Ayers, Daryl Smith and Brent Grimes. They did nothing to improve a bad offensive line. Scott Brown

Antwon predicts 8-8, 3rd in division 

The Bucs were a very competitive team last season despite their 6-10 record. Jameis Winston played about as well as any rookie last season leading this team and assuring them a bright future at the QB position. Dirk Koetter brings his wide open offensive scheme to this new team and it should make them fun to watch with the twin towers they have at receiver. There defense is solid so look for them to continue to improve and become a solid contender down the road. Antwon 

Ralph predicts 7-9, 2nd in division.

I will admit, in writing this preview I initially wrote off the Bucs, until I looked over their record from last year and took into account their off-season moves. Coach Lovie Smith is now, gone. Whether that is a good or bad thing, we don’t know yet.

Lovie being a defensive minded coach didn’t help the Bucs defense last year though. Mike Smith will try to put the talented players into a scheme that can win. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter will get his shot at leading the team this season.

The Bucs will rely heavily on Winston and his two giant wide receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to move the ball down the field. Also featured is the running back duo of Doug Martin and Chris Sims. The problem is those two have to run behind a horrible offensive line. Ralph

Brian Jones predicts 8-8, 2nd in division.

Another team that has the potential to be either one of the biggest surprises in the league or one of its biggest disappointments. Jameis Winston looks like he’s ready to take things to the next level but as long as Doug Martin isn’t consistently producing and Mike Evans not consistently dropping balls Winston’s growth will only go so far. The defense has to improve, especially the pass defense. The pieces are there to make the playoffs in 2016 but I think they’ll fall just short of that goal. Brian Jones 

New Orleans Saints

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction  5-11, 3rd in division.

I love Drew Brees. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person, he a great guy. I’ve been a fan of him since his days at Purdue. Thing is he’s 37 years old, with a 5’11 1/2″ 209 pound frame. The human body can only take so many hits from behemoth NFL linebackers and d lineman. The smaller the frame the less hits it takes. Brett Favre and Tom Brady are freaks, the exceptions to the rule. Most qbs can’t physically play after their 37th birthday. Maybe he will be able to wring another year out of his body. I’m not betting on it. Plus their defense couldn’t stop anyone in the big ten much less the NFL. Things aren’t going to be easy in the big easy. Ending of storybook careers seldom are. J.Russell Zinn

Brian Jones predicts 7-9, tied for 3rd in division. 

 The good news? Drew Brees is back again. The bad news? The Saints’ defense is back again. They have tried to make some improvements on defense but they still aren’t going to be able to stop teams enough to contend. Brandin Cooks will be the same explosive weapon he’s been but he’ll have little help otherwise on offense. Brees will also turn in another MVP-caliber season as well. The defense needs retooling (again) and playing in a division with 3 teams that can put 35 on you with ease is bad news. Look for offensive fireworks and defensive letdown in the Bayou this season. Brian Jones

Ralph predicts 6-10, last place in the division

Drew Brees is not immortal and one of these years he won’t be there to carry the team, But for the time being, he’s still throwing touchdowns. Brees favorite target is Brandin Cooks, who’s very much a threat. Mark Ingram needs to stay healthy for this team to win games.

The defensive unit was so horrible last year they fired the defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Also gone is Brandon Browner, thank goodness. With the subtraction of Browner alone, the defense has to improve.

The offense is not the problem on this team, anchored by a strong offensive line. The biggest problem is the defense, it doesn’t look like the Saints did much to remedy that. Ralph

Antwon predicts 7-9, last In division

 Sean Payton and Drew Brees are ready to put the ball in the air again this season but can their defense hold opponents long enough to get some wins. Dennis Allen is the new coordinator in the Big Easy and players seem to be buying into his scheme but can they produce this year or continue to struggle? One thing for sure this will be a tight race all season. Antwon.

Scott Brown predicts 9-7, second in the division. 

New Orleans finished the 2015 season 7-9. They have a solid running game with Mark Ingram, Tim Hightower and CJ Spiller. They improved their interior pass rushing with free agent Nick Fairley and draft pick Sheldon Rankins. They added an offensive weapon in Coby Fleener, but still have issues with their secondary. Scott Brown 

Michael Eccleston predicts 6-10 last in division 

Yes, those same overrated New Orleans “we have a lot of talent on offense and we have Drew Brees” Saints that we all expect to improve every year but then are disappointed when they don’t. That team. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That has been established. Mark Ingram is expected to step up as the full time starting runningback for the first time since he won the Heisman trophy in 2009. No, but seriously this time…. I expect Brandin Cooks to continue to improve as a very formidable number one receiver, and I also think that tight end Coby Fleener will have a career year with a team that will use him like the large, athletic player that he is. Wide receiver Willie Snead expects to see a lot more attention this season after a promising end of last year, and rookie Michael Thomas will get his feet wet in this offense that relies heavily on the passing attack. And then there’s the defense…….. Yep, that’ll about do it for the New Orleans Saints. Michael Eccleston 

Atlanta Falcons

Ralph predicts 5-11, last in the division.

This year the Falcons don’t get to pad their record with easy wins against the NFC East. Gone is Devin Hester and Roddie White. As replacement the Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu. Yes, they still have Julio Jones but that won’t be enough to save this team.

The running backs are plagued by drops, even though they run behind one of the highest ranked lines in the NFL.

The defense surely won’t scare anyone, filled with young talent, they have yet to prove to be formidable.

The clock will strike midnight and this team will turn back into the pumpkin they really are. Ralph. 

Scott Brown predicts 8-8, 3rd in the division.

The Atlanta Falcons finished last year 8-8. During the off season the acquired Alex Mack in hopes of solidifying their center position. Vic Beasley Jr. should help improve their pass rush now that he is healthy and its a good thing since the Falcons were the worst team in the NFL at both sacks and pressuring the quarterback last year. They didn’t really upgrade by signing wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. With a tough schedule they will finish the same as last year. Scott Brown

Antwon predicts 9-7 second in division 

The Falcons started off a red hot 5-0 last season but their Achilles heel which is their defensive unit would be their downfall and end their season an average 8-8. Coach Dan Quinn finally has all the pieces he wants in his defensive scheme and now he looks to put it all together. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman were the lone bright spot for the team and put up outstanding numbers but they could not stop the slide. Atlanta picked up some good talent this offseason but can they overcome a brutal regular season schedule? We shall see. Antwon 

Brian Jones predicts 7-9, tied for 3rd in division

After starting 5-0 and being considered a Super Bowl contender before they went into a freefall and wound up 8-8. Was this an abberation or a pattern? I think it’s a pattern. Offensively, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will produce and put up numbers but who else will help them? The run game hit a wall and the defense played with concrete shoes the last portion of the season. They added some pieces in free agency and the draft but it’s not going to be enough for the Dirty Birds to fly high in 2016. Brian Jones 

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 4-12, last in division.

They look so good on paper. Sorry Antonio Brown, but Julio Jones is the best wr in the league right now. Matty ice looks like a great qb. Except he’s not. He definitely doesn’t live up to his nickname. He’s Jeff George without the attitude. He puts up big numbers (thanks to great wrs) but folds in the clutch. They started last year 6-1 then collapsed finishing the season on a 2-7 pace. Looking at their schedule this season they could very easily start off 0-6. They won’t recover from something like that. J.Russell Zinn

Michael Eccleston predicts 7-9, 3rd in the division.

Oh boy. What can I say about the Atlanta Falcons? They got off to such a great start last year…. And then, just, yeah the rest is history. The offensive talent is there….. It’s been “there” for so many years now. I’m getting tired of saying it’s time for Matt Ryan to step up and play to his potential. At this point, just get the job done or he just is what he is: An above average quarterback who has the talent but just couldn’t seem to put it all together. He has had the weapons around him offensively. Julio Jones is arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, Devonta Freeman turned into one of the best receiving runningbacks in the league. They’re going to get second year runningback Tevin Coleman involved in the offense more. Atlanta is also going to need Mohamed Sanu to step up big time. The Falcons added a lot of speed to their defense through this year’s draft, but it will probably take a year for them to gel. I expect more of the same from them. Inconsistency. NEXT Michael Eccleston 

Falcons Preseason Recap Week 2.

After winning their first preseason game 23-17 over the Washington Redskins. The Atlanta Falcons headed up north for their second game against the Cleveland Browns. Alot of fans were looking for tweaks and improvements in all facets of the game. So let’s get a recap of all the action.

Offense: The first team offense moved the ball alot better then they did last week. Matt Ryan looked more crisp on his passes and seemed more comfortable in the pocket then he was last week, so the panic button is not being pressed so hard now. Devonta Freeman ran the ball well and scored the first touchdown of the game. Julio Jones had one catch on one target and Mohamed Sanu had a decent game with 3 receptions for 45 yards. Matt Schaub continued his consistent play, going 8 for 12 for 78 yards while he continues to solidify his spot as the backup quarterback. Brandon Wilds continues to shine, carrying the ball 8 times for 49 yards including a 32 yard touchdown run. With Terron Ward battling injury, it will be an interesting battle for that third and final roster spot for running back if Wilds continues his solid play. Other key contributors for the Falcons offense was Quarterback Matt Simms (10-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown), Running Back Cyrus Gray (18 carries for 76 yards), and Wide Receiver Devin Lewis Fuller (4 receptions for 49 yards). 

Defense: After putting on a solid performance last week, the Falcons defense was ugly in the first few minutes. Sloppy tackling and lack discipline contributed to alot of penalties, and All-Pro Cornerback Desmond Truant was burned badly on a long pass against Terrelle Pryor. Even though the defense had 2 sacks, the lack of pass rush was evident, as Browns QB Robert Griffin III had time to look down field and make throws with either his arm or feet. Rookie Safety Keanu Neal made his debut and was up and down. Some plays he made were good and other times he didn’t look so great. Deion Jones while he made some plays, whiffed on a few tackles and rookie De’Vondre Campbell once again stood out, whether it was in coverage or making tackles. This defense has the speed and athleticism to be pretty good, but it will be some growing pains, so Falcon fans will have to be patient and stick it out. 

Special Teams: If Nick Rose is trying to get on as the backup to Matt Bryant, he is off to a shaky start, missing another kick from makeable distance. The big news is punter Matt Bosher suffering a chest injury in the contest. No one knows how bad it is so hopefully it’s nothing serious. 

Summary: Despite the miscues, the Falcons still won handily by a score of 24-13. They outgained the Browns 498-243 in total yards and had more first downs (31-12). The preseason is all about tweaks and the Falcons will continue to do so these next two games. If it’s anything that we saw last night, it’s a positive sign for Falcon Fans.

Falcons Preseason Recap: Week 1

After all the preparation, the long and grueling hours on the field, and hitting teammates, the Preseason is here upon us. While it may be a satisfaction to us fans to finally get to see some football after months and months of waiting. The Preseason is a ways for coaching staff and veterans to work out the kinks before opening week in the season, and an audition for rookies drafted and undrafted to showcase their skills and to make their case on why they should be part of the 53 man roster. The Atlanta Falcons are one of those teams, as they opened their preseason against the Washington Redskins.

Offense: The first team offense were very slow to start off and it seemed the timing was off in the beginning. Matt Ryan only played one series but was zero for four on his pass attempts. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman had some pretty good runs but also played a couple series. Julio Jones didn’t catch any passes and new acquisition Mohamed Sanu had 2 receptions for 18 yards. 

Second team offense played a little better. Veteran Matt Schuab played very well going 10 for 15 with 179 yards. Brandon Wilds had 10 carries for only 26 yards but scored the only rushing touchdown for the Falcons. Aldrick Robinson was Schaub’s favorite target, hauling in three catches for 118 yards, including two very long receptions. 

The offensive line seemed vastly improved, as they gave up zero sacks. Although there were some breakdowns in blocking at times, the o-line seems like it is starting to get, and will during the course of the season.

Defense: The defense seemed a lot faster and more aggressive to the ball then in years past, which is what Head Coach Dan Quinn has preached since he has been in Atlanta. The most noticeable abscence from the defense was first round draft pick safety Keanu Neal. Rookies Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell made solid debuts with nice open field tackling and always seems to have a nose for the ball. The defense also collected 3 sacks, which is a positive sign for the Falcons considering they were dead last in the league in sacks last season with only 19. 

Special Teams: It was pretty much status quo for special teams, expect for one play. J.D. McKissic took the second half opening kickoff and raced 101 yards to the end zone for kickoff return touchdown. This was a statement by McKissic who is trying to make the Falcons roster as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State. He has a long road ahead, but if he continues to make plays like he did on special teams, he can definitely make the case. 

Summary: The Falcons outgained the Redskins 359-234 in total yards and had more first downs as well 17 to 14. Even though Ryan didn’t complete a pass and some Falcon Fans are hitting the panic button calling for Schaub to be the starter, just remember it’s the preseason and they are working out the kinks. They will get back to work in training camp and prepare for the next preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.

Rookie Spotlight: De’Vondre Campbell

‚ÄčAs Falcons training camp continues to grind on, many players are starting to make their presence known to the coaching staff and fans alike. While the veterans are pretty much penciled in as starters (Julio Jones, Matt Ryan), the rookies are trying to make a impression because this may be their only shot to make the team. Even though alot of praise has been heaped upon first round pick Keanu Neal. Another rookie who is making quite an impression is the Falcons fourth round pick out of the University of Minnesota, Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell.

Campbell, a two year starter at Minnesota, is a physical specimen (6’4″, 232 pounds)  and has the speed (4.58 40-time) to run sideline to sideline and downhill. Campbells attributes are exactly what Head Coach Dan Quinn wants in his defense. As a senior, Campbell had 92 tackles (6.5 tackles for losses) 4 sacks, and 3 passes defensed, earning him All Big 10 Honorable Mention.

Coaches and fans alike have been impressed with his play, whether it was covering a running back, wide receiver or rushing the passer, Campbell has been on full display in training camp. He is expected to compete with veteran linebackers Philip Wheeler and Sean Weatherspoon for the weakside linebacker spot, but if he continues to shine in training camp as he has been, there is no doubt he can become a Week 1 starter this season.