We’re opening up the Monday Mailbag after the Falcons’ second win of the season, a 31-23 decision over winless Tampa Bay. As always, you can submit your question on Twitter by tweeting me (@FalconsJAdams) with the #AFMailbag hashtag.
From our good friends at @TheFalcoholic: Is Malliciah Goodman pushing for a starting job at LE?
Answer: Mighty perceptive of you. I think this could be the case. I’ve been on the Goodman train since it pulled into the Falcons’ station during the 2013 NFL Draft and we’re really starting to see the rookie defensive end’s progression start to pick up here at the midseason point. Goodman’s snaps dramatically increased in the Week 7 win and I think that could only continue as the Falcons search to fill the void left by Kroy Biermann and his season-ending injury. Goodman saw 42 percent of the snaps in Sunday’s win, which was impressive considering starter Jonathan Massaquoi saw just 20 percent. Now, that could be a product of the scheme Mike Nolan devised for Tampa Bay, but that could also be a sign that the team likes what they’re getting out of Goodman at this point. And it’s easy to see why. In his time Sunday, Goodman recorded two tackles and two QB hurries, and also graded out remarkably high in ProFootballFocus.com’s assessment of his play, rated a +3.8 in their complicated algorithm that I won’t begin to try to explain here. Not to be overlooked here, fellow rookie Stansly Maponga garnered 25 percent of the defensive snaps, so this position could very much be a fluid one as we continue through the season.
Answer: Taking into account comments from head coach Mike Smith and Tony Gonzalez himself, no chance. Of course, like general manager Thomas Dimitroff always says, you never say never, but it would seem that Smith and Gonzalez have shot down enough of these rumors to merit the ability to put the chances somewhere between slim and none. Here’s what Gonzalez had to say last week on the subject: “… You look at it and say this is what I signed up for. I don’t have any regrets. I am still as happy as I can be to be a Falcon. I know there was trade rumors out there. I didn’t ask for a trade. That wasn’t me. I signed up and this is the team. I came back to play with these guys on the team and I’m enjoying myself win, lose or draw. Obviously, I’d rather win. That makes it a lot more fun, but there is no way I would even think about jumping ship. I love playing for this team. I love playing for this city. Like I said, we still got a chance, too.”
Answer: One of the more overlooked aspects of this 2013 calendar year has been the Falcons’ scouting department’s ability to pick up a slew of undrafted rookies that are either helping the team now, or can down the line. When you think about bang for your buck, there’s not much better than hitting a bull’s-eye on a player that was overlooked in the draft’s seven rounds. In the early stages of some very young careers, the Falcons seem to have hit with Joplo Bartu, Paul Worrilow, Ryan Schraeder and now Darius Johnson. We saw much of Johnson during the preseason and the SMU product turned a lot of heads. I can see that continuing for the time being but when Roddy White is ready to come back and contribute, there’s a roster move that will have to be made. Now, the Falcons could put Johnson back onto the practice squad, but the danger there is another team signing him away if they like the body of work he puts together for however long he’s on the active roster. If he stays, who do you cut or move to practice squad? That’s a bridge the Falcons will have to cross sooner or later, but until then, it really looks like Johnson will be part of the Falcons’ offense, perhaps more so than some thought (present company included). You’ve got to be excited about the prospects of Johnson in the limited snaps we’ve seen him and I think he’s the type of player that could stick around for a long time.
Answer: I’ll be honest, I was surprised when I saw defensive coordinator Mike Nolan on the sideline during Sunday’s game. And after I did notice, every time I’d look at him, he’d be highly engaged with a player or group of players if his unit was off the field at the time. Smith said after the game that the Falcons thought it would be in their best interest to have Nolan on the sideline instead of high up in the coaches booth. Whether that was the reason for the improved defensive play or not, something sparked with the group Sunday. Talk to any of the Falcons and they’ll tell you, at length, how much they enjoy playing for Nolan the coach — and the person — so maybe having him front and center Sunday did something to a unit that was in need of some inspiration. They got plenty of William Moore, but Nolan can motivate and inspire in his own way. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see more of this in the remaining games.