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The Falcons run on Hard Knocks came to an end with the final roster cuts. The show opened with Jacques Smith pacing in the locker room after he was tossed for a late hit in the third pre-season game. As Coach Armstrong memorably told us last week, Smith “isn’t good enough to be an asshole,” and you could see his chances for a job dwindling after his boneheaded penalty.
After being allowed to address the team, Smith did end up getting cut, but managed to catch on with the practice squad. I’m not sure that is a testament to Smith’s ability or the Falcon’s weakness at linebacker.
One criticism I have of this season is that the show didn’t let the viewers get to know a lot of the rookies that would ultimately be on the bubble during final cuts. For instance, Tyler Starr had a lot of early screen time in the first episode, but after that he was pretty much relegated to modeling head wear in the background shots. Despite this though, when he does get the call from Coach Smith that he made the team, it still made for a nice moment.
One fan favorite was long shot wide receiver Geraldo “Amsterdam” Boldewijn. When he started to develop in practices and began to match skill to his enormous potential it seemed he had a good shot at making the team. When he went down in a heap and injured his hamstring while making a cut, it was just heartbreaking.
If there is one thing that you can take away from this show is that there is not a job in pro sports as tenuous as being a football player. The cliche of being “one play away from retirement” exists because it is true. And when you see a guy like Amsterdam coming so close to his dream and losing it -€“possibly forever- after making a simple cut that he has probably done a million times, I’m reminded why I never complain about a player’s salary or when they hold out for better contracts.
In between the drama of injuries and final cuts, Arthur Blank stepped in to briefly crow about the Falcons new home, a 950 Million Dollar retractable roof dome to replace the 20 year old Georgia Dome. I am not a Georgia resident, but I can’t imagine that the taxpayers are thrilled about the notion of a billionaire holding up a state for a new stadium when the old one was built in the 90’s. It is a stadium, not a car. Remember when stadiums lasted 50 years? I mean it’s a dome, so the field and the seats have both been protected from the elements, how beaten up can it be? Why the hell do they need a new one? This offends me and I’m not going to spend a dime for it, I wonder how the Atlanta fans feel about it. Someone better tell Blank that unless his GM finds some new linemen to protect Matt Ryan, he won’t last until the day the new place opens.
The last pre-season game did a good job of building up the drama for the guys who were on the edge. Starr and Smith were the focus, shown both on defense and special teams, and each did well. Although I have to admit, watching a lot of Starr this pre-season he often looked overmatched, particularly when rushing the passer.
This season stressed the importance of playing well on special teams if you want to make a team in the NFL as a backup. Coach Armstrong’s speech last week should be played for every rookie that comes into the league, because it shows how a player can fight his way onto a roster by distinguishing himself on special teams. If you need proof, look no further than earlier this week, when football fans were bombarded with stories about Michael Sam getting cut by the Rams. One of the common themes was that Sam wasn’t able to contribute on special teams. After watching Hard Knocks, it’s clear how vital it is to shine on those teams if you want to make it on a squad.
Other highlights of the final pre-season game against the Jaguars were of TJ Yates throwing well enough to lock up the backup QB job, and the four young bikini-clad ladies that were watching the game while enjoying the stadium’s pool. This prompted the ever-quotable Brian Cox to note that the pool was “only cool if you can get into it, aint cool if you can’t sit in it.”
Sadly, for the first time this season, Cox was largely ignored on this episode, but we did get to meet Kim Cox, and it appears from her brief time on screen that she is as tough as her husband. I can only guess that the producers felt Cox was getting too much screen time, but he deserved it. Two things that make this show great are the rookies that are trying to make the team, and the interactions between the coaches and players. The verbal jabs made by Cox, Tice, and last week’s star, Keith Armstrong, made the show.
Instead of hearing from guys like Cox we were treated with Mike Smith spouting platitudes as he said good bye to the players that didn’t make it -I was pulling for “Cupcake” Rumph- and Thomas Dimitroff giving you, well, nothing.
When it comes to Dimitroff, I was surprised how little he offered on the show. He basically showed us a biking video with Lance Armstrong on Week 1 then spent the rest of the series sitting in Mike Smith’s office nodding in agreement as Coach Smith told them what a great job they did for the team. I got the impression that he really didn’t want to be part of this show. Dimitroff never gave the viewers any insight into his life or his day-to-day running of the team.
Speaking of Smith, I know that the head coach has to be the one that informs the players when they are cut, but after watching Cox, Tice and the other assistants interact with their charges since Week 1 of the pre-season, it would have made for a better show if they could have been part of the last episode, and if we could have seen what parting words they would have given their guys as they left the team.
As for the Falcons, after watching more pre-season football this year than I have in my entire life, I can say this: they aren’t very different than last year’s team. On offense they have a ton of great skill players playing behind a suspect line, and their defense is average at best. My prediction is they’ll go 8-8.
Enjoy the season, and follow me on Twitter at @4oldmanfootball.
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