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 Post subject: How do we judge Hartwell's first year
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 2:10 am 
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Hartwell's first year in Atlanta is done now, and he's a player that probably had the biggest expectations coming into this year among the new faces. It was almost like a forgone conclusion to most fans that he was going to fit right in with this defense and help improve it.

But it seems that was not the case.

So what are people thinking right now about Hartwell? Is he going to get the brunt of the blame for a poor run defense? What happens if the run defense actually improves? Will people say that was because Hartwell was gone or just the fact the coachign staff did a better job of adjusting as the season wore on? Do people expect Edge to come back in 2006 with a vengeance? Or are they going to be more reserved about what sort of expectations they thrust on him next year?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 2:18 am 
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I think he tried to play hurt & never let it get out because he didn't want to be another Price. He has not looked the same since the Eagles game, and maybe I am wrong, but he has looked very slow to the hole like Brooking did the first 3 games when his foot was hurt.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 9:51 am 
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I have to give him an incomplete, no matter what we do against the run the rest of the way. I agree with what someone else said earlier, I don' t think he's been 100% since the Eagles game. I honestly expected more from the guy, but 4.5 games is a small sample size....


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 Post subject: Hartwell
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:30 am 
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This guy was an undrafted free agent from a small school who came into Baltimore with something to prove. He made the team and then filled in for Lewis when he was hurt. The guy did well for the Ravens but that could very well be the system and the players around him. Like Price who had Moulds to make him look better than he really was, Edge might have been relying on the whole of the Ravens defense. The guy stepped into a system to be 'the man, the number one guy, and to make the defense his' but he couldn't back it up. If he was hurt or not, he still failed to do that. When he comes back he will be older, slower, and will never fully recover from the injury. He has also lost the love of the Falcons fans and maybe even the team if they believe his lack of strong play failed them as well. It is a darn tough road for him to say the least. I would love nothing more than to see the guy become a pro-bowl star in Atlanta but the odds of that happening now are slim.

What we should be looking for (in free agency) is a stud on a crap team, not strong players on strong teams. They are unproven because you can never tell if they are a product of a system or just great players and as an Atlanta fan you know if we give them loads of cash they are the former rather than that latter.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 12:38 pm 
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I don't agree with you on that rant there MarylandFalcon. Hartwell is a good player and stepped into Ray Lewis' role without missing a beat. You have to have at least starters talent to step in and perform at pretty much the same level as Ray Lewis had been. Di the Baltimore defense inflate is stats a bit? Yeah.

But Hartwell's performance isn't entirely his fault either. It is no secret that Lavalais and Coleman have about the same value as the last guy on our roster when it comes to stopping the run and eating up blockers. Hartwell is constantly stuck in traffic and no matter how big, fast, or good you are, you aren't going to make plays with two blockers in your fast. We still need a massive 300lb+ road grader DT that can fall and take three guys with him. If you actually free up Hartwell to do his job he will do it. But he always has blockers in his face. I do think he played with some sort of lingering issue since the Iggles game. I don't think Falcon fans are disenchanted with Hartwell and I think people will give him another chance next year.

IMO I'm with Angry on the incomplete grade for this year. I don't think our defense is built for a guy like Hartwell at MLB to be honest. We need someone like Urlacher or Vilma over the middle who is fast and can shed blocks. Hartwell isn't that fast and he can't shed the blocks. I do think that Hartwell is a mismatch for this defense but even in that respect he can still succeed here.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 3:32 pm 
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First off, Hartwell was a 4th round pick by the Ravens, so its not like he came into the league with low expectations.

Second of all, I agree with dirtybirdnw in that Maryland, you seem a little quick to "give up" on Hartwell. I also agree that some of our issues start up front. That doesn't give Hartwell a pass, but I do think lacking a quality run stopper on the bench isn't helping. It hurts our rotation much more than pretty much everyone thought it would.

But I also want to point out that Urlacher is not very good at shedding blocks. It's one of the reasons why so many have been down on Urlacher over the past 2 or so years (coupled with injuries). He's a player similar to Brooking, in terms that he's better chasing the football rather than taking on and shedding blockers. I realize that is true for almost all linebackers, but especially so with guys like Brooking and Urlacher and other WILL-types. Urlacher benefited initially in his career because he had 2 beefy DTs ahead of him. Since Lovie Smith has gone to a quicker front (much like ours), Urlacher has struggled.

I don't think this team should be looking at other options at MLB for the near future. THey should commit to Hartwell and Beck, and I think the only major change we need to make is adding a run stuffer in the middle to work in the rotation.

I think Hartwell is a very good match for this defense, but for a variety of reasons it didn't quite work out so well this year. He's not a blazing fast LB, but he's quick, explodes to the football, hits hard, commands leadership, is strong at the point of attack, and if forced into coverage he's not a major liability.

I think the Ravens defense does make players look better than they are, but not by the significant point that people are implying. The truth behind the Ravens defense is that it was so superbly talented, that's why it performed so well. It wasn't the system so to speak (as it would be in New England), but the fact that those players are actually very good, and Hartwell was among them. They had backups on the defense that could start on many other teams (Cornell Brown, T.J. Slaughter, Chad Williams, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, etc.).

I do suspect Edge will come back in 2006 with a vengeance. I don't see a player like him settling for being average. He truly has the drive to improve himself, and I think you are doing him an injustice when you compare him to Peerless Price, who only showed a commitment to improvement when it looked like he could lose his job.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 4:17 pm 
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Pudge wrote:
But I also want to point out that Urlacher is not very good at shedding blocks. It's one of the reasons why so many have been down on Urlacher over the past 2 or so years (coupled with injuries). He's a player similar to Brooking, in terms that he's better chasing the football rather than taking on and shedding blockers. I realize that is true for almost all linebackers, but especially so with guys like Brooking and Urlacher and other WILL-types. Urlacher benefited initially in his career because he had 2 beefy DTs ahead of him. Since Lovie Smith has gone to a quicker front (much like ours), Urlacher has struggled.



Great post overall Pudge, but this part drew my attention a bit. If you look back through the last 5-7 years you will see that linebackers just aren' good at shedding blocks. The only exception to this may have been Ray Lewis when he was in his prime, but even then he got blocked a decent amount. A MLB is totally dependant upon his D-line in the same way a RB is dependant upon his O-line.

If the lD-inemen cannot command some double teams then the extra blockers will eat up the linebackers, it's just a fact of the NFL. The big problem I saw with Hartwell the last couple og games is his quickness seemed to have been zapped from him and thus he was having problems avoiding the blocks.

Urlacher is actually excellent in taking on blocks, charging into them aggressively & stuffing the surge at the point of attack. Still, every good linebacker has suffered from the loss of his run stopping DT's over the past few years, and you can see the results everytime it happens.

I am not ready to give up on Hartwell at all, but it will be necessary to get him an escort so to speak. A 330+ lb run stuffer would fit the bill quite nicely. I really like Mahelona but he seems a bit small to be the kind of run stuffer we need.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 6:40 pm 
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what are we doing with Shropshire...isn't he a bigger bodied player than any of our other DTs...we don't need a big guy that is all that great, just someone to eat blocks on running downs...


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 Post subject: Hope
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 7:10 pm 
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I sure hope you guys are right, but I will print out this post for mid next season just in case :twisted:

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 2:39 am 
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Yeah, I too want to see what Shropshire can do. My suspicion why he has yet to get time on the field is because he may not be in great playing shape. He wasn't great in preseason, but the coaching staff has to be fed up to the point that they need to do something to try improve this run support.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 3:39 am 
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They could even just use him as the first down DT and put Lavalais in for 2nd & 3rd down, but this 2nd & 1 stuff has got to stop. I'm pretty sure Brookwood H.S. could convert a 2nd & 1 against this defense, so we have to find a way to keep that from happening. Shrop's size is probably our best bet right now.

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 Post subject: Question
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:05 pm 
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Just a question, but as a 'league leading GM' shouldn't McKay have considered Hartwell's lack of ability to stop a run? You guys are all saying that he needs a huge 300+ lbs DT up front to allow him to excell. If McKay knows so much about football then why wouldn't he have provided Hartwell with this person? Does every linebacker in the league need one of these guys? If so, then why did we sign Hartwell and give him so much cash? I guess my thought process is this, you shouldn't sign a high priced free agent only to have to sign a second high priced free agent to make him good. The way you guys are talking it isn't Hartwell's fault he sucked, it is the defense, the personel, the play calling, the coaching staff, etc. If that is the case then McKay was flat out wrong to bring the guy here because he should have known his team better than anyone, save the coach who isn't paid to make personel decisions without going through a GM. With that out there, who is right... you guys or McKay.

If McKay was right (and I am not saying he is) then Hartwell didn't live up to his contract and has so far been a bust.

If you are right (and I am not saying you are) then Hartwell is a good (not a great LB) who needs help to stop run, the very job he was brought in to do.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 12:32 pm 
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MF1 wrote:
Just a question, but as a 'league leading GM' shouldn't McKay have considered Hartwell's lack of ability to stop a run? You guys are all saying that he needs a huge 300+ lbs DT up front to allow him to excell. If McKay knows so much about football then why wouldn't he have provided Hartwell with this person?


I think you're grasping at straws there. Hartwell is a run stopper, but it's hard to make a tackle when OL are getting through a small front 4 getting his big ol' paws on your jersey.

MF1 wrote:
If so, then why did we sign Hartwell and give him so much cash? I guess my thought process is this, you shouldn't sign a high priced free agent only to have to sign a second high priced free agent to make him good


Hartwell among other things is huge in the locker room and a solid player and an upgrade at what we had last year. Rome wasn't built in a day and this defense won't be either, but Hartwell was/is a start.

MF1 wrote:
If McKay was right (and I am not saying he is) then Hartwell didn't live up to his contract and has so far been a bust.


Huh? He's played 4 and a half games. No one can judge him yet.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 1:56 pm 
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In addition to what Angry said... This defense has heart (Brooking), an engine (Kerney), and a battery (DeLo); what it doesn't have is a leader to bring it all together. I fully believe that Hartwell will make this his defense and prove he is the plug in the middle that we have lacked.

Unforutnately that is on hold until next year. I will look very closely to see if Hartwell does what Carpenter did when he was out for the season. If Hartwell still attends practices, watches lots of film, and goes to meetings with his teammates then he in my mind will make a succesful comeback next year.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 2:58 pm 
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MarylandFalcon1 wrote:
Does every linebacker in the league need one of these guys?


Yes, pretty much. Very few MLBs have had success if the guys in front of them aren't doing their job. It's not to mean a MLB is solely dependent on the the D-line, but it's like the relationship between a safety and corner. A good safety with a pair of average corners is not going to be as good as he is. With good corners, a good safety is going to be significantly better because it will allow him to do what he does best (stuff the run, play the pass, etc.). Ray Lewis would not be Ray Lewis if he played for the Saints. He'd still be good, but wouldn't be close to how good he is now.

MarylandFalcon1 wrote:
The way you guys are talking it isn't Hartwell's fault he sucked, it is the defense, the personel, the play calling, the coaching staff, etc.


I don't think Hartwell sucked at all. His problem was that he didn't make enough plays against the run. Truthfully, if you think Hartwell sucked, hten Brooking and Demorrio should be right up there with him. Both have played better than Hartwell, but both haven't been having a great impact vs. the run either. I'm not going to say Hartwell doesn't deserve a share of the blame, but heaping all our run defense woes on him is unfair. Basically, nobody has been doing there job. Sporadically some of our guys will make a good stop, but it hasn't been consistent. Hartwell just comes under the crosshairs because he's the guy in the middle. It is all those things you mentioned (personnel, play calling, coaching staff, etc.) that is contributing to the problem. One of the few positives that came from Wade Phillips in 2003 was that he somehow managed a way to stop the bleeding on a terrible defense. They didn't become good at any point, but they ceased being terrible.

Also how much of this is the fact that in his first year, Mora and the defense exceeded everyone's expectations. A general rule of thumb in the NFL is that if a unit, team, or player overachieves (as ours did last year), they will fall back to Earth the following year.

MarylandFalcon1 wrote:
If McKay was right (and I am not saying he is) then Hartwell didn't live up to his contract and has so far been a bust.


As Angry said, its too early to judge. If the run defense continues to be a problem throughout the rest of the year, it will prove that Hartwell is not a bust and the Falcons as a team are struggling. If it suddenly improves, then it will mean Hartwell shares a heap of the blame. BUt then again, you have to factor in how much of that change is due to the coaching staff switching things up? With Hartwell gone, the coaching staff HAS TO address the run defense now, if they were ignoring it up to this point.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 2:18 pm 
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dirtybirdnw wrote:
I will look very closely to see if Hartwell does what Carpenter did when he was out for the season. If Hartwell still attends practices, watches lots of film, and goes to meetings with his teammates then he in my mind will make a succesful comeback next year.


Looks like that will be the case: http://www.ajc.com/falcons/content/spor ... alnot.html

Steve Wyche wrote:
"I told the trainers what it was before they told me," Hartwell said. "When it happened, I knew right away my season was over. You know what an Achilles injury means. It's hard knowing that they brought you in here to do a job and you can't do that job until next season."

Hartwell said he plans to start coming to practice and serve as a coach of sorts.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 6:15 pm 
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That Steve Wyche quote only confirms to me my suspicion that he was playing injured already...possible with a severely sprained achilles or even a slightly torn one. I don't remember ever hearing about Ed hurting himself which is why I think he tried to tough it out, especially being it is his first year with us & we're Super Bowl contenders.

I believe Hartwell will be a different player next year than what we saw the last couple of games.

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