Atlanta Falcons

Falcons vs. Jets: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Atlanta

Al BruceContributor IOctober 8, 2013

Falcons vs. Jets: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Atlanta

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    The Atlanta Falcons are 1-4, and their much-hyped 2013 season is now on life support. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I live in New York (check my bio if you want to know how I came to cover the Atlanta Falcons) and have seen every Jets game this year either in person or on local television. 

    With that background, there are three things I want you to know about the Jets: (1) They aren't as bad as they were Week 4 against the Titans; (2) Muhammad Wilkerson was already playing at a Pro Bowl level before Monday night; but most importantly, (3) they still had absolutely no business beating the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on a night when Atlanta should have been in must-win mode.

    Monday night was a sum of all fears for Atlanta Falcons fans. Atlanta's defense made Geno Smith look like Andrew Luck, while its offensive line and special teams units put together arguably their worst efforts of a lackluster season. To make matters worse, Falcons coach Mike Smith offered clear and convincing evidence that even he is beginning to panic when he made a bizarre decision at the end of the first half.

    Let's begin what promises to be a lively week of sports talk in Atlanta by reviewing our game grades from the Falcons' 30-28 loss to the Jets.

Quarterbacks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Matt Ryan

    Grade: A-

    Analysis:

    The Falcons didn't lose this game because of Matt Ryan.  He finally delivered in the red zone on a late drive that demanded a touchdown and he played with the kind of poise you see from the elite quarterbacks in this league when the Falcons found themselves down 27-14 in the fourth quarter.

    Ryan's only poor decision came on a first quarter pass that was nearly intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Jets cornerback Darrin Walls.

Running Backs

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    1. Jacquizz Rodgers

    Grade: B-

    Analysis:

    Rodgers made a play that Atlanta desperately needed in the fourth quarter with his 21-yard touchdown run that pulled the Falcons within six points.  Rodgers also scored a touchdown on the ground in the third quarter in spite of some suspect blocking from his offensive line.

    2. Jason Snelling

    Grade: B-

    Analysis:

    Like Rodgers, Snelling did the best he could behind an Atlanta offensive line that was completely dominated up front.  He has been one Atlanta's most consistent players this season.

    3. Patrick DiMarco

    Grade: C

    Analysis:

    DiMarco had a first-down catch in the first quarter, but he struggled along with Atlanta's offensive line to open up much room on the ground.

Wide Receivers

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    1. Julio Jones

    Grade: A-

    Analysis:

    It's a shame that Falcons wasted one of the best catches you will see all year from Julio Jones in the fourth quarter.  Oddly enough, Jones' first quarter fumble recovery may have said more about the kind of player he is than the left-handed, one arm catch he made with Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie draped all over them.

    2. Roddy White

    Grade: C

    Analysis:

    Roddy White looked like he was getting back into his groove with a couple of receptions, but he also fumbled the ball twice.  White left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury.

    3. Harry Douglas

    Grade: C

    Analysis:

    Another quiet day for Douglas.  Let the debate continue.  Is Douglas underutilized, or is he an underachiever?

    4. Kevin Cone

    Grade: A

    Analysis:

    Cone was called into action in the fourth quarter when both Roddy White and Julio Jones were out of the game with injuries.  He earns an "A" solely because he answered the call with a key third down catch that kept a Falcons scoring drive going.

Tight Ends

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    1. Tony Gonzalez

    Grade: A

    Analysis:

    You can't help but feel bad for Tony Gonzalez.  He didn't put off retirement to go 1-4.  For the second straight week, he had timely catches against tight coverage and he also had a key block on Jacquizz Rogers' first touchdown run. 

    2. Levine Toilolo

    Grade: B+

    Analysis:

    What a difference a week makes for Toilolo.  After dropping a touchdown pass against the Patriots last week, Toilolo caught the pass that put Atlanta up 28-27 before the Jets drove down the field for the game-winning field goal.

Offensive Line

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    1. Lamar Holmes

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Lamar Holmes continues to look lost at times, and his apparent inability to master his assignments keeps him from playing at his full potential because he's thinking too much about who he's supposed to block. 

    2. Justin Blalock

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Like the rest of Atlanta's offensive line, Blalock will probably be featured prominently in Muhammad Wilkerson's Pro Bowl audition tape since he was beaten by the Jets defensive end for a tackle for a loss early in the game.  Blalock is the most senior member of this offensive line, and his unit's play in the ground game was awful.

    3. Peter Konz

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Peter Konz had a difficult time with just about any Jets defender who lined up across from him.  He continues to pay for his lack of elite strength and his tendency to over reach when trying to block his guy.

    4. Garrett Reynolds

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Garrett Reynolds probably had his worst outing of the season against New York.  Reynolds was beaten badly by Sheldon Richardson in the second quarter for a drive-stopping sack, and didn't do much in the run game either since he got run over by Kendrick Ellis on a second down run play late in the second quarter that led to a 3rd-and-5 for the Falcons.  Later, Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison manhandled him for a tackle for a loss in the third quarter.  As if that wasn't enough, Reynolds was also beaten by Muhammad Wilkerson (after Wilkerson beat Jeremy Trueblood) for strip of Matt Ryan in the third quarter.

    5. Jeremy Trueblood

    Grade:

    Analysis: F

    Trueblood got pushed back at the end of the first half when the Jets stuffed Jacquizz Rodgers on a fourth down run attempt in the red zone.  Late in the third quarter, Muhammad Wilkerson initially beat Trueblood en route to forcing a Matt Ryan fumble that the Jets turned into a field goal.

Defensive Line

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    1. Osi Umenyiora

    Grade: B

    Analysis:

    Osi Umenyiora was the only player on the Falcons defense who seemed to appreciate the urgency of this game.  He had two timely sacks that helped give Atlanta a chance to steal the game.  However, he wasn't able to come up with one more play in the Jets last possession.

    2. Corey Peters

    Grade: C

    Analysis:

    Peters registered a sack, but more often than not Geno Smith had way too much time in the pocket.

    3. Jonathan Babineaux

    Grade: D

    Analysis:

    Babineaux had a nice stop early in the game, but the Falcons wish that he would have been able to make the play he missed in the backfield against Bilal Powell on the Jets game-winning drive.

    4. Jonathan Massaquoi

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Massaquoi was a non-factor against the Jets.  He's part of the reason that the Geno Smith didn't face much heat.

    5. Cliff Matthews

    Grade: D

    Analysis:

    Matthews eamed up with Joplo Bartu for a 3-yard sack in the second quarter after initially missing Geno Smith himself.  Beyond that he was a non-factor like Massaquoi.

     6. Malliciah Goodman

    Grade: D

    Analysis:

    Goodman didn't do much of anything as a pass-rusher.  He's an average backup.

Linebackers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    1. Joplo Bartu

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    It's tough to get too upset at Joplo Bartu because he's an undrafted free agent who's been thrust into action because of injuries.  Nevertheless, he did a poor job setting the edge on Mike Goodson's 24-yard wildcat run in second quarter and he was beaten by Jeff Cumberland for Jets first touchdown.  He also missed badly on an open-field tackle against Bilal Powell in the third quarter.  Bartu has regressed steadily since his strong showing in Week 2.

    2. Stephen Nicholas

    Grade: C-

    Analysis:

    Another week, another pedestrian performance by Stephen Nicholas.

    3. Paul Worrilow

    Grade: D

    Analysis:

    Like Bartu, Worrilow battled hard but he's still a rookie.  The Jets were able to keep him on his heels by mixing up their personnel groups on offense and spreading the ball around.

    4. Omar Gaither

    Grade: C-

    Analysis:

    Gaither stuck his nose into a few tackles, but like Stephen Nicholas he put forth a pretty pedestrian effort.

Secondary

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    1. William Moore

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Even William Moore wasn't immune to Atlanta's poor play on defense.  He missed an open-field tackle on Jeremy Kerley in the second quarter and along with everyone in the secondary he earns low marks for allowing Geno Smith to pick them apart.

    2. Thomas DeCoud

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Nothing spectacular from DeCoud even though he looked better tackling.  The Falcons have needed someone to make a play on defense all season and neither DeCoud or Moore have given it to them.

    3. Desmond Trufant

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Trufant had a nice tackle that helped force a field goal attempt on the Jets first drive, but his grade suffers because of New York's last drive and the fact that the secondary allowed Geno Smith to have his best game of the season in a game Atlanta had to have.

    4. Asante Samuel

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    It was easy to forget that Asante Samuel was even on the field.  He was beaten by Stephen Hill for a first down on the Jets last drive.  Like Moore and DeCoud, he hasn't delivered the plays that Mike Nolan's defense needs to make stops.  Samuel saved the Falcons from a loss to Raiders last year with a pick-6.  As Falcons fans are learning the hard way, this isn't last year.

    5. Robert Alford

    Grade: C-

    Analysis:

    Alford's only highlight against the Jets was a special teams tackle.  He probably deserves a look at nickelback over Robert McClain at this point.

    6. Robert McClain

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    Robert McClain missed a tackle on Jeremy Kerley that allowed him to score a touchdown to put the Jets up 17-7.  He's looking like the biggest fraud on the team at this point.

Special Teams

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    Matt Bryant

    Grade: A

    Analysis:

    Bryant did his job and connected on all of his extra points.

    Matt Bosher

    Grade: B+

    Analysis:

    Bosher had a pair of touchdown saving tackles on Jets return man Clyde Gates even though he was penalized on the second one.  His coverage units really let him down.

    Coverage Units

    Grade: F

    Analysis: The punt had a punt blocked and they allowed two big returns that set the Jets up with great field position.  Gates made it look easy against them.

Coaching

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    Mike Smith

    Grade: F

    Analysis:

    There's strong evidence to suggest that Mike Smith is starting to crack.  His decision to go for it on fourth down twice in the red zone at the end of the first half with his team trailing 17-7 is one that he would not have made two weeks ago. 

    Let's discuss the decision before going over the play call.  Smith's team needed a touchdown and a field goal and the Jets were getting the ball to start the second half (the discussion about why Smith refused to differ again when he won the coin toss, even at home against a rookie quarterback making his first Monday night start, is a story for another day). 

    Even if the Falcons had scored a touchdown, they were still going to be behind and kicking the ball off to the Jets at the start of the third quarter.  It's just a matter of whether they'd be behind by a touchdown or a field goal.  Either way, the defense would have to make a stop.  The risk-reward just wasn't there at that point in the game, but Smith seems like he's let the mounting pressure from the fanbase get the best of his own logic.

    The choice to go with a run up the middle to Jacquizz Rodgers following that decision bordered on insanity because Atlanta's offensive line had been whipped by the Jets defensive front the whole first half.  Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff need to be honest with themselves and realize that they were wrong about this young group of offensive linemen.  That entire unit has held this offense back all year.

    As Jon Gruden stated in Monday night's broadcast, this league doesn't care about what your team did last year.  No one has ever said being a head coach in the NFL was supposed to be easy or fair.  This 2013 Falcons team has now lost four games by a touchdown or less.  If coaching is truly what makes the difference in close games, it may be time for the temperature to rise on Mike Smith.

    How many times will Falcons fans have to see the same movie from this team?

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