Falcons Land Freeney and His Spin Move 

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By Dre McClendon

The Atlanta Falcons have landed a player to help with their ailing pass rush by signing former Cardinal defensive end Dwight Freeney to a one-year deal on Tuesday, August 2nd.  Freeney chose them over the Bengals.

Freeney’s career has expanded 14 seasons.  He has played for the Colts, Chargers, and Cardinals. Amassing 119.5 sacks along the way. His eight sacks alone last season with the Cardinals was only 11 behind the Falcons as a team (19). Even though the veteran is 36 and considered by most, long in the tooth. Bringing in Freeney will not only boost the Falcons pass rush, but can also serve as a veteran presence and mentor to star defensive end/outside linebacker, Vic Beasley.

While he may not be the dominant force he once was, this move is good for both Freeney and the Falcons.  This signing has already made Falcon fans plenty excited about the season and about Freeney’s devastating swim move and he will once again wreak havoc for the Falcons down in Atlanta.

 

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Falcons Say Goodbye To Devin Hester

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By Dre McClendon

The Falcons have released another high-profile player heading into the 2016 season, releasing wide receiver/returner Devin Hester on Tuesday. Many fans were split on the decision, some felt he had one more good year left, others felt it was best to release a player whose injuries and rule changes in the return game made him virtually ineffective.

There was always a saying that floated around the NFL, “Do Not Kick To Devin Hester”. From his exploits at the University of Miami to the being drafted by the Bears, Hester established himself as one of most dangerous return men in NFL History. Teams would literally kicked the ball away from him and if he somehow got his hands on the ball and a crease you can pretty much cancel Christmas. He single-handedly changed field position just by being on the field and people who would usually go to the bathroom during change of possession would literally hold it so they wouldn’t miss any magic that Hester could possibly make on an electrifying return.

When Devin Hester signed with the Falcons in 2014, there was a lot of excitement among Falcon fans. His impact was immediately felt in Week 3 of the 2014 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when he scored on a 62 yard punt return for his 20th career touchdown return, breaking the record for non-offensive touchdowns he shared with Deion Sanders. 2015 was a down year for Hester, as a toe injury sidelined him for majority of the season. Releasing Hester will save the Falcons a little over 3 million in cap space.

Many Falcon fans will tell you they loved and appreciated what Devin Hester has brought to the team. While he is no longer with the team, all of us as fans wish him the best on this endeavors.

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Life of a Falcons Fan

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By Dre McClendon

Being a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I’ve experienced highs, lows, elation, and heartbreak. I remember attending my first Falcons game, and a man by the name of Deion “Prime Time” Sanders electrified the game with a punt return for a touchdown. It was then that I became a fan, even after he departed, I stayed loyal, from the Dirty Birds to the Vick Era, to now the Matt Ryan/Julio Jones era. It’s plenty others that share this loyalty so I’ve decided to do a little Q and A with a few Falcons fans. They are (in order): Jose Carrasco, Nicholle McKoy, Demario Scott, Eric Parker, Mike Linson, Jonathan Moore, Dexter Mines, Dustin Delacerda, Marshell Thorthon, Larron White, and Maria Johnson.

  1. How do you prepare for Game days?

Jose: For me, I get a good night’s sleep. I always wear a pendant on game day. It used to be a 285 freeway pendant but now it will be a Falcons pendant. I always wear a jersey. I don’t feel right not wearing a jersey on game day.

  1. What are your expectations for the season?

Nicholle: To win. We expect a Superbowl win this year. Ok 11-5, I was getting nervous already.

  1. The Falcons will be moving into their new stadium in 2017, what was your favorite memory in the Georgia Dome?

Demario: If I was in attendance for the Seattle playoff game in 2012 that would have easily been my choice but since I was not there for that game the Carolina quest for that perfect season has to be the game. We had already been taken behind the woodshed and whip badly in Carolina so of course the experts didn’t think we stood any chance in this game. Cam Newton was coming home to Atlanta; His team was clicking on all cylinders. Many picked his team to go undefeated and many picked his team to win the Super Bowl. Our Defense played great and the offense did enough to get the job done. The atmosphere was like a playoff game. There were lots of Carolina fans in the house and after they were defeated the trash talk on the concourses was at an all-time high. Remember games aren’t played on paper. It’s played on the field. #RiseUpAtlanta

4.This will be the second year the Falcon defense will be under Dan Quinn, given his track record in Seattle, will the defense see improvement this season?

Eric: Definitely. They’ve already improved in the draft at the linebacker and safety position. We lost a couple of games last season from lack of coverage on Tight Ends and Running Backs. Not only that, but it is the second year in Quinn’s system will also play a big factor. I think the league is in for a shock. #RiseUp

  1. Many felt that the Falcons reached in the draft by drafting S Keanu Neal out of Florida. What impact do you feel he can bring to the defense?

Mike: Many people thought the Falcons reached to get Neal with the 17th pick. Scouts weren’t impressed with his ability to cover. I for one do not agree.

Neal was often matched up against wide receivers in the off coverage. When he played closer to the line, that’s when he shined.

Neal is not a flashy guy by any means. But he’s EXACTLY what Dan Quinn was looking for on defense. Someone who has the ability to close quickly, make the tackle and cover tight ends in short yard, goal line situations. This is where Neal will have the most impact.

  1. Mohamed Sanu was one of the key acquisitions the Falcons made this off-season. How can he contribute to the offense?

Jonathan: He’s a Roddy White replica. He won’t take the top off, but he will stir the pot and while they are looking in the pot, Julio will let them know we either getting a first down or a touchdown. If our Tight End kicks in along with Freeman, we can be trouble.

  1. Matt Ryan had one of his worst statistical seasons in his career (21 Touchdowns, 16 Interceptions). What does he have to do this upcoming season in order to elevate the Falcons to Superbowl Contenders?

Dexter: Matt Ryan has to improve on his decision making as a QB to elevate the Falcons into a SuperBowl contender, with 16 interceptions, it is hard to obtain and control momentum on a regular basis. Defenses aren’t afraid of your ability to pass, when they don’t feel you can put the ball downfield on a consistent basis.

Also, Ryan has to show that he is an assertive leader of his offense. I will be the first to say that putting an established QB into a new system is a recipe for disaster (which we had last year) but when you are the field general, it’s your responsibility to lead. Kyle Shanahan, while having a lot of the responsibility (fault) pointed at him and rightfully so, is NOT on the field when the ball is snapped. If Ryan is reading a defense and he sees something, audible and exploit it. Matt Ryan has to make it very known that as the field general, that it won’t degenerate into the “Julio and them” show. Yes, we have one of the top 5 receivers (and I would argue top 1) in football wearing number 11. But the Falcons have far more weapons now than just Julio. Sanu has the speed and ability to rip the top off a defense, Devonte Freeman emerged last year as a top 10 NFL RB, Jacob Tamme is a pretty sure handed tight, and for the love of all things holy in the eyes of the football gods, please leave that stupid screen play elsewhere. Once and in a while it is awesome, but does not run that run it on a regular basis.

The last thing is that Matt Ryan, when under fire, has to make better decisions. Whether it’s throwing it away, or taking a sack. The last and absolute worst thing he could do is continue to try to force it to Julio when he is about to be popped in the mouth.

  1. Julio Jones had one of the most impressive and productive seasons with a wide receiver in recent league memory. Can he surpass those numbers this season?

Dustin: While I’d have to say anything is possible when it comes to Julio Jones, I’d like to think the ground game will have more of an impact this year, so I’d say similar numbers for sure but I think it’s unlikely he surpasses them.

  1. What game are you looking forward to seeing the most this season?

Marshell: I am most looking forward to the game against the Broncos. I want to see how we do against the team who will be minus Peyton Manning, but their defense wasn’t too bad.

  1. In your opinion, who is the Falcons biggest rival and why?

Larron: Saints. Has been for years. I remember my momma going to that game when I was a kid. They would take Amtrak down to New Orleans. Why, because New Orleans has just as many black people as Atlanta and our fans could go there without going through the racial tension. It was also one of the closest divisional teams, being in the old NFC West with San Francisco and Los Angeles and now in the NFC South.

  1. When did you become a Falcons Fan?

Maria: I don’t really have a set time that I became a Falcons fan. I’ve just watched since I was a kid. My sister was a huge fan and got me watching them. I was watching them when it was a guarantee that every year they would lose 10 or more games. I remember players like Steve Bartkowski, William Andrews, Mick Luckhurst, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, Jeff George, Chris Chandler, Jessie Tuggle and Scott Case who I liked, but hardly gets talked about. Best moment as a fan was seeing Morten Andersen kick the game winning field goal to send the Falcons to the Superbowl in 1998. I like the Falcons but it seems every time I get excited for them, something blows their season up and it ends up sucking so I keep an even keel of excitement about them.

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Thomas Dimitroff come on down

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As a kid growing up, one of my favorite game shows was “The Price is Right”. Lots of people would pack the building, hoping and wishing they would hear those three words, so they can go on contestant’s row to compete to win prizes. In this with case with Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, this is not the case. Rumors have been swirling for some time that he is on the hot seat, even Dimitroff himself has admitted recently that he was. When the Falcons move into their new stadium in 2017, Dimitroff will be counted on to make moves to put together a consistent contender.

Thomas Dimitroff knows what it’s like to win, having spent six seasons with the New England Patriots before taking over duties as General Manager for the Atlanta Falcons in 2008. Under his reign, the Falcons have a record of 74-54 which is good enough for eighth best in the NFL. He also was voted NFL Executive of the Year in 2008 and 2010, and the Falcons made the playoffs four of his first five seasons. 

He is considered a draft wizard, having drafted quarterback Matt Ryan in the 2008 NFL Draft (his very first draft as General Manager), and pulled off possibly the biggest trade in NFL Draft history by sending five picks to the Cleveland Browns to move up to select WR Julio Jones with the sixth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was also the mastermind in the trade that acquired future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez from the Kansas City Chiefs and signed Free Agent Michael Turner, who made the Pro Bowl in 2009 during his first year with the Falcons. 

While he has enjoyed a successful campaign as General Manager, there have been a few bumps in the road for Dimitroff. Drafting Offensive Lineman Sam Baker was one of them. Despite being a decent lineman, Baker could never seem to stay healthy, having only played in two full seasons during his seven years with Atlanta before being released in 2015. Another questionable decision was drafting defensive lineman Peria Jerry in the 2009 NFL Draft. This did not sit well with many Falcon fans, as some were hoping that Atlanta draft linebacker Clay Matthews out of Southern California, who was considered a top NFL prospect and still on the board. Matthews was selected by the Green Bay Packers and has enjoyed a successful career, while Jerry was never able to recover from a major knee injury and retired in 2014 after five seasons with the Falcons. Also, since 2013, the Falcons have a combined record of 18-30 and have missed the playoffs the past three seasons, prompting Dimitroff to fire Mike Smith and hire Dan Quinn.

General Managers typically don’t survive a coach firing followed by two more years of not making the playoffs, and that’s what Dimitroff is looking at if the Falcons fall short this year. Will he finally hit the jackpot and make the Falcons a Superbowl contender or will he hear the “Price is Right” losing horn and be on his way out?

 

Who Will Control NFC South?

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The question is will the  Carolina Panthers control the NFC South again? Last year it seemed that no one could beat the Panthers, it didn’t matter if the team played in their division or not. Atlanta Falcons managed to make it to .500 record but, the Saints and the Bucs did not. Should I mention that in 2014 that no team in that division made it to a .500 record but, the Panthers somehow still won their division.

Last season the Panthers lost their top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season after he tore his ACL during the first practice of the summer. Now a year later he has returned. Their receiving core is back intact as of now. One of their problem areas is at running back. They have Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jonathan Stewart and Brandon Wegher. Let’s start with Jonathan Stewart, the man that can’t stay healthy. His last full season played was in 2011. Why do they consider this guy a starter? Did I mention he is limited in the OTA’s right now? Maybe his body is trying to tell him to quit or become a water boy. Whittaker on his third team, well he isn’t much to talk about. This will be Artis-Payne’s second season. He didn’t play much, but I did like what I saw from the kid. A positive note, his rushing average is higher that Trent Richardson’s. I think if he gets more experience, he will actually be a good player. Cam Netwon who almost lead the team with rushing yards, had the best season of his career last season. He increased his touchdowns to 35. He also didn’t throw as many interceptions as previous years.

The Panthers did take a big blow to their defense this off-season. They lost their top cornerback Josh Norman. Norman was shutting top wide receivers down the majority of the season. Will their defense be as good as last year? They still have Kuechly and Davis but can they stop the ball down the field? We will see.

 

The Falcons

When you hear the Atlanta Falcons name mentioned you automatically think of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. These two have a great chemistry together. They also have an effective running back Devonta Freeman, who had a 1000-yard season. His backup Tevin Coleman wasn’t bad either. Since last season Roddy White had one of his worst seasons of his career since he started in the NFL, was let go this off-season. He was replaced by Cincinnati’s wide receiver Mohammad Sanu. Their tight end situation isn’t bad but, the Falcons did draft Austin Hooper from Stanford. They started last season with a 5-0 record, but, ended with an 8-8 record. So what happened? The defense played horrible and were last in sacks. The offensive line couldn’t protect Ryan so, he was making very questionable decisions. During the 2016 NFL draft the Falcons main focus was to draft defensive players. Will these upgrades and drafts help?

 

The Saints

Where to start with the Saints. The team, as a whole, had problems from the offense to the defense. The New Orleans Saints last season had a record of 7-9. The most consistent player on the Saints is well QB Drew Brees. He had a great season last year. Let’s first talk about their running back situation the Saints have Mark Ingram who has been on the team since 2011 and still hasn’t had a 1000-yard season. The last time he played all 16 games was in 2012. They signed C.J. Spiller for what reason I don’t know he didn’t do anything. They did draft a running back Daniel Lasco from California. They lost Jimmy Graham in 2014 so they had Benjamin Watson to fill his shoes. Watson did have one of the best season of his career, but they lost him in the off-season. The Saints did sign Colby Fleener to replace Watson. The defense for the Saints was garbage. They were ranked second to last in the league. A positive note the Saints did focus their draft on defensive players. They also signed Roman Harper for the second time.

 

The Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with the fans who thought Jameis Winston was going to be their savior. Well, he might be but last year he wasn’t. The Bucs had 6-10 record last season. Last season Winston ranked 28th out of 34 in QB rankings. Winston also ranked fifth in the league in interceptions, but he did have a great yards gained pass completion. The Bucs have a great running back in Doug Martin and their offensive line last season was awesome, if they weren’t there was no way Martin was going to have over 1000-year season. What hurt the Bucs was losing their tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to shoulder injury for the season. They also lost Vincent Jackson to a knee injury for the season. Losing Jackson probably hurts them the most. He was one of the top players on the team and when he went down they only had Mike Evans. Mike Evans had a great yardage season last year, but only scored three touchdowns all season. Really? That’s horrible, Jackson only had three, but he got hurt. Seferian-Jenkins had four, but, again, he got hurt. Those two have great reasons why they didn’t score. The Bucs did fire Lovie Smith this past January. Maybe that is what needed to happen for them to have a better season.

 

The NFC South will be interesting to watch this season. The question is will they be a great division or horrible.

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