Is Schottenheimer here to stay?

The Georgia Bulldogs have had a disappointing year thus far in the 2015 season. A season that has included a span of three out of four games of scoring 10 points or less, blowout losses to both Florida and Alabama, inconsistency at quarterback, and losing the best offensive threat in the conference when star tailback Nick Chubb went down for the season with a knee injury. This is also the same season the UGA beat the Steve Spurrier lead South Carolina Gamecocks 52-20 and had playoff aspirations. So where does this leave UGA? They can still finish the regular season with 9 wins and have the possibility of a bowl win to eclipse 10 wins, that classic Georgia season.

The question starts getting asked, can UGA win it all with Mark Richt at the helm? Will they be able to overcome the curse that seems to follow? My answer is yes, but I do not believe that it will be with Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator. At the conclusion of last season Mike Bobo, former offensive coordinator, was hired away as a head coach to Colorado State University. He led Georgia to record breaking offensive seasons in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He was handed the play-calling duties from head coach Mark Richt in the 2006 Chick-fil-a Bowl against Virginia Tech and never looked back. His development of quarterbacks was felt by the success of Aaron Murray becoming the first UGA QB to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons, and the first SEC QB to do it in four straight. It also shows in how he made Hutson Mason a quality signal caller, you could see his fingerprints all over it. He finally got his running back he could rely on in Todd Gurley in 2012 and his offense could not be stopped after that.

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Schottenheimer, contrastly, has an NFL resume of being pretty average and seems to take a more business approach to coaching these young men. I believe that this has hurt the development of UGA’s quarterbacks as a unit. Understand that I am making this assessment after not even a full season with Schotty at the helm, but if you look at the offseason and how it was handled, you can’t help but wonder what could have been. There was a battle for the open QB spot in the spring and they had nothing definitive about who was leading, then bringing in a transfer QB and adding to the ambiguity of the position. It seems as though there has been no progression to the offense over the course of this season as well as at quarterback. The best that the offense has been since the Chubb injury has been when they have run the “Wild Dawg” formation with wide receiver Terry Godwin taking the snaps and deceiving the defense with the unconventional look. Is there really  no scholarship QB who can run the offense well enough to take the pressure off of the defense?

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I believe that there needs to be a change at the offensive coordinator position. I think a promotion from within would be the best outcome. They could promote current wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, current running backs coach Thomas Brown, or current tight ends coach John Lilly to offensive coordinator. This would help recruiting since there would be continuity in the same offense and it would give Richt another opportunity to develop his next great assistant from the ground up while also finding a new QB coach to help develop the position and focus solely on that. All of those candidates I mentioned are qualified and have the resume to be considered for a position like this and if you look at last season’s bowl game in particular, John Lilly called the plays since Bobo had already left for Colorado State and the offense was explosive. This season just shows what a great loss Bobo was to the UGA program and offense.

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7-Round Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft 1.0: The Way-Too Early Edition

dantefowlerRound 1 – 8th overall

The Pick: DE/OLB Dante Fowler Jr, Florida

The Skinny: This stud is a three-down linebacker-defensive end hybrid, who can stop the run AND rush the passer. The Falcons have been embarassed by their lack of defensive attitude and prowess, and they get both with this all-around talent. He is a scheme fit for any scheme because of his size and athleticism.

Round 2 – 40th overall

The Pick: ILB/OLB Bernardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

The Skinny: This talented linebacker has the size, 6 foot 4 in 243lbs, and speed, 4.6 40yd dash, to be a long time starter in this league. With an upside as high as Navarro Bowman, and very little to be concerned about, this would essentially add a starter to this maligned defense and build a long-term solution to the woes that this front seven of the Falcons has suffered from for several seasons now.

Round 3 – 72nd overall

The Pick: TE Nick O’Leary, Florida State

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The Skinny: Strictly a value pick right here. I would argue that the players available on defense and the offensive line at this point in the draft would not be starters in year 1. I do however think that O’Leary could be an instant contributor to an already explosive offense and be an intriguing red zone aid, as the Falcons have not been able to fix their woes. I also believe that interior offensive line man, which is what the Falcons need can be taken later in the draft, no need to reach.

Round 4 – 104th overall

The Pick: OT Jake Fisher, Oregon

The Skinny: This would be a pick in which the Falcons could add quality depth and give a young guy to this group of veterans that can be developed over the next year or so into a solid starter at right tackle. Has a good frame and held together the offensive line for Oregon during their Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff run.

Round 5 – 136th overall

The Pick: OLB Jordan Hicks, Texas

The Skinny: If you haven’t noticed the trend, it’s defense. The Falcons need potential starters and quality depth to improve this unit. Hicks is an agile player who could be a part of the youth movement on this defense that helps build a new identity.

davidandrewsRound 6 – 168th overall

The Pick: OC David Andrews, Georgia

The Skinny: With a nickname “Boss” how could you not take the undersized center in the sixth round. He was a three year starter at UGA, and a natural leader. He will have a chip on his shoulder and he has very high football IQ, which always helps the overall unit. And with all of the struggles on the offensive line, any type of leadership and attitude potential is a plus at this spot in the draft.

Round 7 – 200th overall

The Pick: CB Damian Swann, Georgia

The Skinny: Yes, I know i doubled down on UGA players, but this is a value pick for Atlanta. Swann is a three and a half year starter who had a great sophomore year, a below average junior year, and a stellar senior season. This is an asset because it shows how he responds to adversity. Both defensive coordinators that Swann learned under are both aligned with NFL principles and help his understanding of different schemes. He is a versatile defensive back that played corner and safety in college. He can help on special teams and add depth and versatility to a thin secondary.

 

Why Bobo will Succeed as a Head Coach

BoboMurray-Sanderlin-Former UGA Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo has accepted the Head Coaching job at Colorado State University. Many may think that this is just an average hire for a mediocre program. Some would say a logical step for a coveted coordinator. I, however, believe that he is destined to be a success as a head coach. There are three major qualities each head coach needs that aid in the process necessary to sustain success.

The first asset is his demeanor. He has learned and grown under Mark Richt and has been able to watch him operate a program. The calm demeanor helps when your team is facing adversity and will benefit the program in the long run as it will give the players time to develop and show the coach their best without wilting under pressure. Demeanor carries with you in all aspects of life, because it is a measure of the confidence that person has.

The next asset is his humility, which helps when he figures out who his staff will be. The humility allows him to bring in the best coaches possible, and not try to do it all on his own. He has already announced his first hire, friend and coaching colleague Will Friend, former UGA offensive line coach. Friend is an excellent coach and equally excellent recruiter, as well as a great asset to have by Bobo’s side for the foreseeable future.

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The last main asset is his style and philosophy about football. It remains to be seen how he will approach defense and the schemes that go along with it, but offensively, we know he runs a pro-style system with spread concepts. He has mastered it over the last 7 years at UGA and should enhance it as he grows professionally. It also doesn’t hurt that Bobo is an excellent recruiter, and it should be easier to get players to follow him to CSU because he has a history of putting guys in the NFL.

bobo csuThis step in his career is temporary and should be a solid one on his way back into the SEC as a head coach, possibly at his alma mater the University of Georgia, obviously whenever Coach Richt decides to call it quits.

SEC East Preview 2014

East Division Breakdown

The most sacred time of year has returned, yes it is college football, and more importantly the SEC. I will take a look at the SEC East division and give some superlatives as we did for the Western Division of the SEC.

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1. Georgia Bulldogs 11-1 (7-1)

The Bulldogs are hungry to avenge last season’s debacle of disappointment and injuries. They are led by 5th year senior Hutson Mason and arguably the best back in the country in Todd Gurley. We believe they will lose week 2 to South Carolina in Colombia and run the table from there. Most analysts will say that whoever wins that matchup is going to win the East, but I would point to the last 3 seasons where UGA won last season and did not represent the East in Atlanta, but the previous two seasons they lost to the Gamecocks and were in the Georgia Dome for the early-December showdowns. This team will go as far as Gurley takes them, and we believe that is at least to the Dome.

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2. South Carolina Gamecocks 10-2 (6-2)

We believe that this is one of the most talented teams in the SEC. The games that we have circled for the Gamecocks are the matchup late in the season at Auburn and when Tennessee comes to town as a possible trap game. They have a solid group of leaders and Mike Davis is a bruiser in the backfield so they should have another successful season. They can manage the schedule but they have some flaws on defense and at receiver, but the offensive line and a backfield with the experience that Davis and Thompson possess, they will be in every game with a shot to win.

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3. Missouri Tigers 9-3 (5-3)

The Tigers have a solid team returning and should have success, the main concern this season would be the defensive line. Losing two very productive defensive linemen and having to face several offenses that control the clock, it will be difficult to make it out unscathed. Dorial Green-Beckham was electrifying and he was the key to another SEC east title run, the only problem is that he didn’t have what it takes to stay on the team and has since been kicked off and transferred. The Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk is a game-changer and will compete for a championship before his time in Colombia is over, this just isn’t the year.

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4. Tennessee Volunteers 6-6 (4-4)

This is my surprise team in the east, but they will not quite have enough to run the table. They should be better in year 2 under Butch Jones, as they welcome in some great freshman and return the likes of Marquez North at wide receiver and All-SEC linebacker AJ Johnson in the middle of the defense. I did not account for this in my record prediction, but watch out for Tennessee upsetting Alabama in Knoxville for Lane Kiffin’s return as the OC for Bama, this could be the year.

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5. Florida Gators 6-6 (3-5) 

There are too many people hopping on the Florida bandwagon saying that because Jeff Driskell is back that they will return to form that we saw in 2012, but they fail to realize that the team won those games because of the defense and not Driskell. He has never shown consistency at the most vital position on the field. He will make some plays but ultimately be the reason that they are inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball by stalling drives.

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6. Vanderbilt Commodores 5-7 (1-7)

James Franklin is gone and I hate to say it but I just do not think that they have enough to win many games in the SEC this season, but Derek Mason will grow with the program eventually.

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7. Kentucky Wildcats 4-8 (0-8)

It is tough sledding for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats, they are simply a better team in a league in which they can not move up. The team will be stronger and they can beat Louisville, but they will be winless in the conference.

 

SEC accolades:

MVP: Georgia RB Todd Gurley

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This is the best player in the country as well as the SEC, he always seems to make the difference in his team winning or losing. He is healthy this season and in the best condition since arriving in Athens, thus looking for a huge year. I believe he has the edge to win the Heisman trophy as well.

Offensive Player of the Year: South Carolina RB Mike Davis

Possibly the second best player in all of the nation, he just happens to be second at his position in his own division as well due to the aforementioned Todd Gurley.

Defensive Player of the Year: Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr

This stud will be playing on Sundays soon and what is so impressive about him is his versatility in his ability to stop the run and rush the passer. He has stepped out as his defenses leader, and he brings that traditional Florida intensity that we are accustomed to seeing in Gainsville.

Newcomer of the Year: Tennessee WR Josh Malone

This is my favorite person tho watch this season, I believe that he will be the next Sammy Watkins. He is big and explosive, and he will be second focus for defenses as they watch Marquez North on the opposite side of the field, so he should shine as a compliment receiver.

Coach of the Year: Tennessee HC Butch Jones

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Spring Game

With Tennessee being my surprise team, I believe in Jones and his ability to beat at least two teams that are favored over the Vols this season.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia vs. Alabama

We have a rematch from 2012. This game we believe ends a little differently with the Bulldogs exacting revenge and winning the SEC.

SEC Champion: Georgia

I believe that Georgia has the tools available, especially with Todd Gurley in the backfield, to win the SEC. I think they will then get their shot in the College Football Playoff and defend the SEC’s name for the 2014 season.

 

So there it is, our SC East Preview. Check out the West Preview to see how that side may shake out, and thank you for reading!

2014 Two Round Mock Draft

First things first, we created this mock draft as if we were the GM for each individual team. We had 4-5 possible picks for each slot and had a “war room” discussion as each pick was made. We wanted to make a realistic scenario for each team’s needs and account for trades that would intrigue both sides of the deal. We also tried to use conventional knowledge of draft history for each franchise and their front office. So now, let’s get to the draft:

Round One

1. Houston Texans- DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

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The Skinny: This is the best player in the draft and the only one truly deserving of the number one selection.

2. St. Louis Rams- OT Greg Robinson, Auburn

The Skinny: The Rams need to build the offensive line as a strength so that Sam Bradford can finally progress into the confident franchise QB.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars- QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida

The Skinny: The Jags have needed a quarterback ever since…ever? They have the ability to finally end the viscous circle by taking the franchise QB they have been coveting, and they have the opening via the Blaine Gabbert-to-San Fran trade that had all of us scratching our heads. Never the less, they have a much more favorable position moving forward.

4. Cleveland Browns- QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

The Skinny: The biggest punching bag of the draft so far is still a stud QB who is a future franchise guy. The Browns could take a receiver here, but there are several first round caliber wide outs available…yes even with passing up Sammy Watkins, Josh Gordon is the number 1 they need a number 2.

5. Oakland Raiders- WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

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The Skinny: Speaking of Watkins, He is simply too talented to be passed up by the Raiders, who are hurting for a playmaker on offense. They signed Matt Schaub, so the immediate need for a QB can be set aside for a later round, meanwhile adding the best offensive player in the draft.

6. Atlanta Falcons- OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

The Skinny: The bottom line is, PRIORITY NUMBER 1 is keeping Matt Ryan protected, and especially with Clowney off the board, the greatest need is an offensive tackle immediately on the right side and eventually on the left and Matthews fits the bill.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

The Skinny: The Bucs are looking for impact offensive playmakers and why not get your franchise QB in the process? Manziel is the best QB and offensive talent available at this point.

8. Minnesota Vikings- QB Derek Carr, Fresno State

The Skinny: The Vikings have a history of reaching for QBs in the first round (Christian Ponder) and this season would have been different had one of the top 3 dropped to this position. They like Carr and they may get impatient with how the other quarterbacks are flying off the board.

9. Buffalo Bills- DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

The Skinny: There was talk the Bills could have traded up for Clowney or Mack, but we believe the way this crazy draft will go, that they can stay put and get their local stud who will be the best player available when they make this selection.

10. Detroit Lions- OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan

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The Skinny: There is a high chance of the Lions taking a safety here, but Lewan is simply too tempting to pass up. he is the most NFL ready offensive tackle and he can “stay home” by getting drafted by the Lions. Stafford can make plays, but he needs to stay upright so that he can use all of those offensive playmakers and a good safety will be available in round 2.

11. Tennessee Titans- WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

The Skinny: The Titans need offensive playmakers, and even though they want a new quarterback, there is not one left worthy of this pick. We say they should get a weapon either for Jake Locker or for their future QB.

12. New York Giants- TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

The Skinny: Eli Manning simply needs better targets, especially since they just lost Hakeem Nicks.

13. St. Louis Rams- OT/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame

The Skinny: This is the second first round pick by the Rams, and their offensive line is a major priority, so we say they double down on the o-line and grab Martin to initially play guard.

14. Chicago Bears- S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

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The Skinny: The bears are looking for youth in their secondary to renew the energy and they are in need of a safety, so they will take care of both right here.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers- CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

The Skinny: The Steelers need to get younger on defense and this is a classic value pick by them.

16. Dallas Cowboys- DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

The Skinny: They could have taken Anthony Barr right here to replace Demarcus Ware, but as we discussed it, they really should build from the inside out.

17. Baltimore Ravens- ILB C.J. Mosely, Alabama

The Skinny: The Ravens have been looking for a stud in the middle of the defense for the past two seasons and to put it simply, Mosely is the only inside linebacker worth a first round selection.

18. New York Jets- WR Marqise Lee, Southern California

The best receiver left on the board is a must for the Jets who need to help out whoever their quarterback will be.

Trade!!!!!

19. Atlanta Falcons- OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA* Trade From Miami

Anthony-Barr-Article

The Skinny: The Falcons have been in the news for being willing to trade up, but it won’t be for Clowney since he will be gone first overall. This trade stems from the Dolphins not having the coveted offensive tackle available here. The terms of the trade are as follows: Falcons receive 19th overall pick, and Miami receives 2015 1st round selection, 2014 2nd, 4th, and 6th round selections.

20. Arizona Cardinals- S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

The Skinny: The Cardinals need a safety to play opposite of Tyrann Matheiu, and complete their strong defense with another playmaker. There are no quarterbacks worth taking at this position.

21. Green Bay Packers- WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

The Skinny: They can take this luxury pick and also fill a need. They will replace the loss of James Jones right here.

22. Philadelphia Eagles- CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

The Skinny: The Eagles need to lock down another corner to put opposite of Brandon Boykin and improve the defense by also taking the best player available.

23. Kansas City Chiefs- WR Odell Beckham Jr, LSU

The Skinny: The Chiefs need to get more explosive on offense and Beckham could be their guy.

24. Cincinnati Bengals- WR Brandin Cooks 

BrandinCooks

The Skinny: The Bengals may be looking to replace Andy Dalton at quarterback, but they need to balance the offense with a receiver to stretch the field and take pressure off of A.J. Green.

25. San Diego Chargers- NT/DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

The Skinny: The Chargers need a disruptor in the middle so that the linebackers can free flow to make plays in the running game.

26. Cleveland Browns- CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

The Skinny: With their second pick in the first round we say that the Browns address the need at their cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden.

27. New Orleans Saints- CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State

The Skinny: The signing of Champ Bailey is just a short term help on the defense, but Roby has the talent to come in and compete and learn from Bailey.

28. Carolina Panthers- WR Donte Moncreif, Ole Miss

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The Skinny: THEY NEED A RECEIVER!!!!!! BADLY!!!!!! That is all.

29. New England Patriots- DE/OLB Dee Ford, Auburn

The Skinny: The Patriots love versatile playmakers and Ford fits the bill. He can flourish in this organization.

30. San Francisco 49ers- CB Jason Verrett, TCU

The Skinny: The Niners are becoming one of the best overall teams in recent history, and their strong draft history certainly is the reason why. They take a need and one of the best players available in Verrett.

31. Denver Broncos- OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA

The Skinny: They really filled a lot of needs in free agency, so the biggest need remaining is a stud plug and play guard who will keep Peyton Manning upright and happy.

32. Seattle Seahawks- OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

The Skinny: The offensive line was not up to par last season even though the Seahawks won the superbowl. They have a chance to take an offensive tackle that has a ton of upside and potential.

 

Round Two

33. Houston Texans- OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

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34. Washington Redskins- OG Joel Bitonio, Nevada

35. Cleveland Browns- OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

36. Oakland Raiders- DE Kony Ealy, Missouri

37. Miami Dolphins- OT JuWan James, Tennessee* Trade From Atlanta

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

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39. Jacksonville Jaguars- DE Kyle Van Noy, BYU

40. Minnesota Vikings- DE/OLB Jeremiah Attaouchu, Georgia Tech

41. Buffalo Bills- TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

42. Tennessee Titans- QB Tom Savage, Pittsburgh

43.  New York Giants- DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

44. St. Louis Rams- WR Allen Robinson, Penn State

45. Detroit Lions- CB/S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

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46. Pittsburgh Steelers- DT RaShede Hageman, Minnesota

47. Dallas Cowboys- DE/OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

48. Baltimore Ravens- OT Cameron Flemming, Stanford

49. New York Jets- TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame

50. Miami Dolphins- OG/T Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

51. Chicago Bears- CB Phillip Gaines, Rice

Trade!!!!! The Buccaneers have traded QB Mike Glennon to the Arizona Cardinals for the 52nd overall pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots

52. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson

53. Green Bay Packers- S Jimmy Ward, Northern Illinios

54. Philadelphia Eagles- WR DaVonte Adams, Fresno State

55. Cincinnati Bengals- QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinios

56. San Francisco 49ers- WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

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57. San Diego Chargers- WR Paul Richardson, Colorado

58. New Orleans Saints- OT Billy Turner, North Dakota State

59. Indianapolis Colts- S Deone Bucannon, Washington State

60. Carolina Panthers- WR Cody Latimer, Indiana

61. San Francisco 49ers- DE Marcus Smith, Louisville

62. New England Patriots- RB Tre Mason, Auburn

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63. Denver Broncos- ILB Chris Boreland, Wisconsin

64. Seattle Seahawks- OG David Yankey, Stanford

What are the Falcons planning to do at safety?

The Falcons have answered some questions this off-season thus far. They have signed NT Paul Soliai and DE Tyson Jackson to bolster the run defense and OG Jon Asamoah to start at right guard. They also re-signed DT Corey Peters, DT/DE Johnathan Babineaux, C Joe Hawley, and RT Mike Johnson. The recent addition of CB/KR Javier Arenas shows that the Falcons are still shopping, per recent reports that they are still interested in KR Devin Hester to provide a spark in the return game. One question still remains, what are the Falcons doing at safety? With the top targets coming off of the free agency board all within 24 hrs of the league year beginning, what options does that leave the Atlanta Falcons?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins

The obvious choice would be Chris Clemons, formerly of the Dolphins. He has the physical tools to  immediately help the Falcons in both run and pass situations. He has his flaws, but the value in that is his price has dropped since we are more than a week after the start of free agency. He could help bridge the gap for one of this May’s draft picks, to allow time to develop.

major wright

Another good option would be Major Wright, formerly of the Bears. This guy has the starting experience on a good defense and will be even cheaper than Clemons due to less name recognition. He quietly keeps the defense from breaking and will help bring along a young rookie that would be drafted this May.

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There had been talk early this off-season that William Moore could return to his natural position at free safety and the Falcons could sign a strong safety like James Ihedigbo, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. He has the big play ability close to the line of scrimmage. He could bring a mean streak and aggressiveness to this defense that could change its identity.

The NFL Draft:

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The Falcons could trade back from their 6th overall pick and draft either Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama, or Calvin Pryor from Louisville. Though this option seems less likely due to their huge need on the offensive line and need for elite pass rusher.

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The Falcons could also sit tight at 37 overall and take Deon Bucannon from Washington State, this is still less likely due to the prior response of greater needs on the team.

terrence brooks

Another option is in the third round at 68 overall. This is the last position where they would likely draft a starter. Florida State’s Terrence Brooks or USC’s Dion Bailey would both be good fits right here, a sleeper would be if Lamarcus Joyner slips to this pick and the Falcons want him at safety instead of corner.

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The last option in the draft would be to get a back up safety to groom along as the future starter behind a veteran that I mentioned before in free agency. This option could be a local player such as Jemea Thomas out of Georgia Tech or maybe Isaiah Lewis from Michigan State. Both of these players have potential, but may not be ready for a starting NFL role just yet.

The Prediction:

The Falcons will add a veteran safety in free agency and draft a back up/future starter somewhere in rounds 3-5.

Atlanta Falcons Offseason Outlook plus 2014 7-round Mock Draft

First things first, a 4-12 season shows that the Falcons have plenty of holes to fill. They started by maximizing their cap room by “trimming the fat” by cutting cost-efficient salaries and older players who don’t fit the future vision.  The following players have been cut:

CB Asante Samuel, Cap Savings $5.25 million Image

This move should speak for itself. Samuel is still a good player but not worth the $5+ million he’ll count against the cap, seeing as how he has already been replaced by two rookies this season.

LB Stephen Nicholas, Cap Savings $2 million 2014 and $5.5 million in 2015

Nicholas is the highest paid linebacker on the team with the least amount of production, this is a no-brainer.

G Garrett Reynolds, Cap Savings $1.329 million

An under-performing offensive line needs a complete makeover, enough said.

Others that could be cut:

DE Osi Umenyiora, Cap Savings $3.5 million 

I know he just came in this year, but this is a position in need of being upgraded and the birds will need every dollar they can to make the necessary improvements.

S Thomas DeCoud, Cap Savings $3 million in 2014, $4 million in 2015, and  $4.2 million in 2016Image

This move will save a small fortune over the next 3 seasons. It is affordable money if DeCoud’s production was that of his Pro Bowl 2012 season, but the Falcons have little time to wait and see if that returns. They need to use every dollar to see if they can capitalize on a veteran free-agent safety.

RB Jason Snelling, Cap Savings $1.375 million

With three running backs on the roster making more than 1 million against the cap this season, including incumbent starter Steven Jackson and flex back/return man Jaquizz Rodgers, unfortunately Snelling is the odd-man out. Antoine Smith has stepped up as well, making this move less risky.

Free agency is also where the Falcons could make some noise and turn around their fortunes. So here are a few of the options they could pursue:

DE Michael Johnson, Cincinnati

Michael Johnson 

He is a product of the home-town Georgia Tech and could be affordable as a run stuffing defensive end as well as a potential double-digit sack stud. His production in sacks last year was down, hopefully helping the Falcons land him.

FS Jarius Byrd, Buffalo Bills

The Bills now seem as though they will not use the franchise-tag on Byrd. He might be out of the Falcons price-range, but he is the best free safety on the market. If there is a bidding war for his services, it may leave the Falcons looking for another safety in free agency.

FS Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts

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He is a more realistic candidate to be signed by the Falcons, seeing as how he is still an upgrade on DeCoud but he is much more affordable.

OLB Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins

Of course this is assuming that he even hits the market. He is a candidate for a franchise-tag as well as maybe even an extension. He would be expensive, but it all depends on where the Falcons want to spend their focus within free agency and the draft.

C Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

He would instantly change the whole dynamic of the offensive line. Mack has already made it clear that there is a slim to none chance that he returns to the struggling Browns. The Falcons may be in the market to really upgrade this position  in particular through free agency.

OT Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs

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The connection of new Falcons Assistant General Manager Scott Pioli being the former General Manager of the Chiefs helps this possibility. He is a former left tackle, right tackle, and also a guard in college. He can bring versatility to the offensive line that it has not seen in a while.

OT Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens

He does not have any connection, but seems like a good fit at right tackle and would help immensely.

G Willie Colon, New York Jets

He was pursued by new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice while he was in Chicago, and he fits his scheme. He would also be a cheap addition who could start at right guard.

Others who didn’t make the cut: DE Greg Hardy-will probably be franchised, DE Michael Bennett-too expensive, OT Eugene Monroe-too big of a market, FS Louis Delmas-too many health concerns

And Now for the 7-round Falcons Mock Draft

Round 1 6th overall- DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo 

Khalil-Mack

This is assuming the highly coveted Jadeveon Clowney is off the board, and the Falcons would take the best player available which would be the versatile Mack. He has the NFL measurables and he is a clutch player, bringing in his best performances against top competition.

Round 2 37th overall- OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

He is a potential left tackle, but could play on the right side immediately as he develops.

Round 3 68th overall- DT Dominique Easley, Florida

He is a top 15 talent that slipped due to his torn ACL. He will be Babineaux’s replacement on the defensive line.

Round 4 99th overall- TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia

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He provides the ability to help in the passing game and as a blocker. Lynch will be a scheme-friendly pick for the Falcons, and should generate some home-town buzz.

Round 5 135th overall- S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

He is a tweener at sefety/corner, but his leadership and instincts make him valuable at the next level. He could play behind whoever the Falcons sign in free agency and make his living on special teams for the time being.

Round 5 compensatory- WR/RS Dri Archer, Kent State

He could be the Falcons 4th receiver, and speed demon return specialist. Sometimes it makes sense to take a flier on a guy who could make you look smart, he has gamebreaker potential.

Round 6 166th overall- G Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt

The need for help along the line has been noted and here is just another body to use for competition in camp.

Round 7 197th overall- WR L’Damian Washington, Missouri

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If he is still here at this pick, the Falcons should jump all over it. He is a big-body receiver who can make plays in the red zone to help replace Tony Gonzalez.

Round 7 compensatory- CB Ross Cockrell, Duke

Talented corner who is underrated for his smooth transitions in coverage. He will help special teams and be a 4th corner.

Round 7 compensatory- QB Connor Shaw, South Carolina

connor shaw

The Falcons do not seem to be high on Dominique Davis, and that’s why they brought in Sean Renfree in the draft last year. They want to create competition behind Ryan. Shaw would provide that and he is originally from Flowery Branch, where the Falcons practice facility is, thus creating local buzz. He is a proven winner, and has great running ability which is also valuable as a backup in the NFL.

Round 7 compensatory- C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

This would be adding another guy to the mix in camp to push Peter Konz.

Why is this Richt’s time?

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Most of college football fans know about the success of Georgia Head Football Coach, Mark Richt, but he may be more well-known for what he has not done. Richt is the elder statesman in the SEC, as he has been at UGA since 2001, but Richt’s main critics point to his inability to get to the “big game”, as he rarely has his team in real contention for a national title by season’s end. The famous end to the 2012 SEC Championship game against Alabama, where the Dawgs found themselves just “five yards short” of the National Championship. The others seem to be less haunting, but in 2002 against Florida, the undefeated bulldogs saw Richt bring starting quarterback David Greene off the field to make good on his promise to DJ Shockley. Only, the stage may have been too big at the time for young Shockley he threw a game changing interception which left a blemish on an otherwise great season and the SEC Championship was not enough to propel them to the BCS Championship game.

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The good news is, that coming off of a disappointing season, this is where Richt seems to be at his best. He starts the season just out of the spotlight and slowly gets his team to believe over the course of the season. This season the Dawgs will be replacing the face of the program for the last four years in quarterback Aaron Murray. His replacement, who took over for the last two and a half games of the 2013 season, Hutson Mason is a fifth-year senior who has been Aaron Murray’s backup for the past four years, and in that time, he has created a buzz throughout Bulldog nation for his accuracy in practice and his knowledge of the offense.  In recent years, 4 out of the last 6 BCS National Championships have been won by teams win a first year starting quarterbacks. The defense on the other hand, is returning 9 of 11 starters off of a struggling unit from a year ago and under the new defensive coordinator, from the reigning National Championship defense, Jeremy Pruitt is ready to maximize this group’s sterling potential.

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So, why is this Richt’s time? It’s simple, he doesn’t have to be in the top two this season, with the new college football playoff going into effect, all you need is to be in the top four. Now, I’m not saying that Richt would be incapable of leading his team to a Championship, but this format plays into his strengths. He usually has his team playing its best football by season’s end and with the new landscape of the SEC, having so many new quarterbacks, leaves the door wide open. Richt is a molder of men and it usually takes the growth of a season, so if there is an early loss, it will not derail this teams goals.

SEC Football Preview

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Keeping with the football spirit, here is the breakdown of the best of the best and greatest conference in college football history.  This is our annual SEC prediction which will show the picks for the championship as well as individual awards which will excite even the most cynical of fans.  These picks are as good as money, and you can say that you “heard it here first!”

Eastern Division Champion- Georgia Bulldogs 

With 10 of 11 starters returning on offense, the main question marks are on the defense. With how the defense disappointed last season, there could be a chance that even though there were major losses on the defensive side of the ball, the team could rank higher in total defense than last year’s squad. The main thing everyone will be watching will be quarterback Aaron Murray who needs to raise his big game poise for his team to take the next step.

Western Division Champion- Alabama Crimson Tide

I almost do not even need to write anything about our defending champions. It feels like this team is set up so perfectly to win 4 out of 5 National Championships this season. They are one of the best program dynasties that we have ever seen, and possibly the greatest. If they can get past Texas A&M and LSU, they could run the table yet again.

SEC Dark Horse- South Carolina Gamecocks

This team has the best player in the conference in Jadeveon Clowney, and a solid overall team. The Dual quarterback play has always scared me, but has become the way Steve Spurrier likes to run things. Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw both have starter potential and the confidence to get it done. Mike Davis is a solid replacement for Marcus Lattimore, and this should fuel them to big places and potentially a BCS bowl game.

Eastern Division Surprise Team- Tennessee Volunteers

This team returns 4 out of 5 offensive lineman and the top two rushers from last season in Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane. Justin Worley is stepping in at QB and they have 8 starters returning on defense, this is enough for new head coach Butch Jones to work with. They will look more like the Tennessee teams of the past.

Western Division Surprise Team- Auburn Tigers

NCAA Football: Auburn-Spring Game

With the Gus Bus coming to town, this team can actually use the talent that new head coach Gus Malzahn actually recruited. He will be able to maximize their early potential, and I think he will build this program back to a championship level. Nick Marshall has transferred in to become a quarterback in this offense, and as a former defensive back at UGA it shows his athleticism.

Conference Champion- Georgia Bulldogs

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This probably shocked most of you, but this seems to be too perfect of a storm for Alabama to repeat, and you have to like this offense that returns everyone. The defense will be ready by this time in the season to contain the Tide enough for Murray and the offense to finish the drill.

Individual Awards:

Conference MVP- UGA QB Aaron Murray

If the Bulldogs are to win the championship, then Murray will have to be at this level and thrive. He has all of the tools and weapons to get it done.

Offensive Player of the Year- UGA RB Todd Gurley

Gurley is potentially the best running back in the nation, and his hard-nosed running could coax any deficiencies in the defense this season.

Defensive Player of the Year- South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

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Possibly the best player in the nation, but Clowney is never satisfied, so he will stay hungrier than ever this season.

Coach of the Year- Tennessee HC Butch Jones

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Spring Game

The job of turning around the Volunteers is no easy one, especially with no SEC experience under his belt. He will take this team back to the rocky top.

Newcomer of the Year- Auburn QB Nick Marshall

This JUCO transfer played quarterback in high school and when he went to UGA they made him a defensive back and now he gets to play his desired position with the Tigers. He could have all the talent that Malzahn needs to make this unit go.

Full Conference Predicted Standings

This is how I see this conference playing out this season, with some usual suspects leading the way. There are 10 total bowl teams in this conference, by my calculation.

SEC Eastern Projected finish                                                 SEC Western Projected finish

1. Georgia  11-1 (7-1)                                                                   1. Alabama  11-1 (7-1)

2. South Carolina  10-2 (-2)                                                        2. LSU 10-2 (6-2)

3. Tennessee   8-4 (5-3)                                                                3. Texas A&M 10-2 (6-2)

4. Florida  9-3 (5-3)                                                                        4. Auburn  8-4 (4-4)

5. Vanderbilt 7-5 (3-5)                                                                  5. Mississippi 7-5 (4-4)

6. Kentucky 4-8 (1-7)                                                                    6. Arkansas 5-7 (1-7)

7. Missouri 4-8 (0-8)                                                                      7. Mississippi State 4-8 (1-7)

NCAA Football: Florida-Spring Practicejohnny manziel

Fighting For a Spot

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Donald Russell, former Georgia State running back, is fighting for a roster spot on the Atlanta Falcons.

The former Panther stud back is now playing for the home town NFL franchise. He is listed as the 6th running back on the Falcons roster behind tailbacks Steven Jackson, JaQuizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, and fullback Bradie Ewing. The Falcons recently made the move to sign Steven Jackson, and it looks like the only potential playing time at tailback will come between him and JaQuizz Rogers as well as Jason Snelling, the others will be splitting time on special teams.

This would be big for Georgia State if Russell could make the hometown team, because there has been recent success for GSU players making NFL rosters. Russell has the type of potential to create a very recognizable brand for Panther football. The program is making the jump this year into Division 1 and entering the Sun Belt Conference, with Georgia Southern soon to follow.