Jeff Schultz blog 

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Falcons’ implosion may have just begun

  • 2:46 pm Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Matt Ryan figures to be under duress even more after losing two (or three) more offensive linemen. (AP photo)

Well, look at it this way: The Falcons are still tied for first place.

A season that has the potential of spinning out of control quickly — and we reference last season as Exhibit A — took a bad turn Tuesday when the Falcons confirmed they’ve lost at least two more starters for the season. Center Joe Hawley (knee) and tackle Lamar Holmes (foot) were placed on season-ending injured reserve after injuries suffered in Sunday’s 41-28 loss in Minnesota. Safety William Moore was placed on designated for return-IR with a shoulder injury, which means he is not allowed to practice for [More]

Weatherspoon out (Is this happening again?)

  • 9:49 pm Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Sean Weatherspoon, who had been working his way back from previous injuries, is lost for the 2014 season. (AP photo)

Last September, when the Falcons were in only the early stages of what would become a calamitous string of injuries, I offered my, “Can’t Afford To Lose” top 10 list of players. The list:  Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Steven Jackson on offense; Sean Weatherspoon, Osi Umenyiora, William Moore, Jonathan Babineaux and Asante Samuel on defense. (Looking back, I don’t know if I overrated the aging Samuel before last season or he just couldn’t get healthy.)

This year’s list wouldn’t change much, which means the Falcons just took a big hit — and they didn’t even [More]

Falcons not wowing Vegas: Are concerns real?

  • 9:15 am Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Has Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff done enough to plug holes? (AP photo)

According to the first post-draft odds in Las Vegas the Falcons are 40-1 win the Super Bowl (via Bovada). That places them tied for only 13th overall, and maybe more significantly only tied for eighth among NFC teams.

These odds fall in line with previously released over-under win totals. The Falcons are projected to win only eight games in 2014 season (via Cantor gaming), which puts them behind New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, as well as Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay, Chicago and Philadelphia in the conference. (Complete odds are listed below.)

As we know, oddsmakers set odds based [More]

UPDATE: Falcons take Jake Matthews

  • 11:30 am Thursday, May 8th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Jadeveon Clowney , left, Sammy Watkins, center, and Khalil Mack may be the top three players drafted tonight. (AP photo)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked 44 times last season and hit another 42 times but somehow finished the regular season without having a psychotic break.

Maybe Jake Matthews will help.

The Falcons took Matthews, the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Texas A&M tackle, with the sixth overall pick. He is the son of Hall of Fame guard Bruce Matthews and one of seven members of the Matthews family to play in the NFL. Two others: Former Cleveland Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. and Green Bay pass rusher Clay Matthews III.

The Falcons went into the first round desperate to improve their offensive line or [More]

On Dimitroff, Falcons’ draft board and Umenyiora

  • 3:32 pm Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff knows owner Arthur Blank demands success. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I spent some time earlier in the week with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The column, which can be viewed online now at MyAJC.com and is in print in Sunday’s newspaper, mostly focuses on how quickly Dimitroff lost the benefit of the doubt with many in the public after the team went from a perceived Super Bowl contender to finishing 4-12 last year.

Dimitroff has made several changes to his personnel staff and the Mike Smith’s coaching staff. He has issued a strong message to everybody in the team’s Flowery Branch complex: “OK. We’re 4-12. Adapt and deal with it.”

I [More]

Falcons’ moves should improve both lines

  • 5:24 pm Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Thomas Dimitroff had a busy first day in NFL free agency. (AP photo)

A makeover was needed. This was a good start.

The Falcons didn’t sign any of the major names on the first day of free agency but they signed three players who should significantly improve their offensive and defensive lines.

By doing so, the team acknowledged personnel mistakes of the past, while also sending a signal about a change in philosophy on defense.

A quick recap:

– Signed: Nose tackle Paul Soliai (from Miami). He’s 6-4, 344 pounds and his signing pretty much confirms what has been hinted over the past several days that the Falcons will shift their base defense to a 3-4. Soliai [More]

Dimitroff concerned about player’s ‘skill set,’ not sexuality

  • 10:32 am Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Thomas Dimitroff said he and coach Mike Smith wouldn't downgrade a player for his sexual orientation. (AP photo)

It’s common for there to be disagreement on where and when an NFL prospect will be drafted, so Missouri defensive end Michael Sam being projected to go anywhere from the third to fifth round to possibly not even taken isn’t unusual. But the fact an online sports book has posted an over/under on Sam’s draft spot – 125½ — should indicate he is not your typical mid-round prospect.

Sam is homosexual. It would be naive to believe there aren’t any gay players in the NFL. But no current player has gone public and Sam is the first athlete to go public [More]

Dimitroff: Clowney will be difference-maker

  • 5:22 pm Thursday, January 30th, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff admits the team needs more grit.

NEW YORK  — Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff made his annual trip through radio row at the Super Bowl Thursday. When he was finished, Darryl Ledbetter and I had a private audience with him. Darryl will have a full story later on MyAJC.com on some of Dimitroff’s plans this offseason but here are a few comments that stood out to me:

UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the full Q&A, posted by D-Led.

– Ignore speculation that he or any NFL team is down on former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney: “I’ll just say what everybody in the country knows: [More]

Falcons’ hiring of Scott Pioli can only help

  • 10:04 am Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Jeff Schultz
When he was in Kansas City, Scott Pioli had some hits and misses (like hiring Romeo Crennel as head coach).

Last month when I spoke to Scott Pioli, it was clear the affection and respect he still had for Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, who worked under Pioli as a scout when both were in New England. It also was clear the two spoke often and easily could be seen working together again one day.

And here we go.

In a modern day version of “Trading Places,” the Falcons have hired Pioli, the former Patriots’ general manager, as an assistant GM under Dimitroff. So the teacher is now working for the student.

It’s a terrific move by the Falcons. Pioli and Bill [More]