Quarterback Jeff Matthews (background) could throw the ball well, but did not sound like Matt Ryan (foreground) at the line.
Photo: Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton

Mike Check: 5 things we learned about the Falcons on HBO's 'Hard Knocks'

Just one more episode left of “Hard Knocks" with the Falcons. Here's five things we learned about them on Tuesday night's Episode 4:

1. Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong was ticked at pretty much all of his players after the Texans game

That’s no surprise. The miscues for the Falcons in that game included a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown and a blocked field-goal attempt. We see Armstrong tell head coach Mike Smith that Mallicah Goodman was bad blocking on a kickoff.

“Piss poor. Soft. He’s basically saying he don’t care. That’s good. That’s fine. I’ve got something for us.”

Armstrong did have something for his charges, and it was profane, intense and glorious.

Armstrong to the entire group: “Some of you guys think you are better than it, you think you are above it. Who do you think you are? The game don’t mean enough to you and that’s very (bleeping) apparent. You better wake up and get your pride in your game. Going to go out there and play like (bleep). Now, the (bleep) was coached the right way.  I don’t want any excuses. Selfish ass.”

Armstrong to Devonta Freeman while showing video of his poor block that led to the blocked punt: “What the hell is this. Look at this crap. You kidding me? It ain’t OK to go around here and not know. That ain’t you. It ain’t OK. Really don’t care. That’s as selfish an act as you can make. Grow the (bleep) up.”

To Jacques Smith: “You do what I tell you to do. You ain’t good enough to be an ass(bleep). You understand that?”

To Ra'shede Hageman: “Do you start on defense? No. So what you going to do, sit your ass on the sidelines and watch the (bleeping) game? We got enough people around here doing that (bleep). Ain’t important to you.”

To Goodman: “Mallicah, I’ve been telling you for two years. Right there, the same crap. Do you start? You a superstar? How many Pro Bowls you been to? You got a gold (Hall of Fame) jacket?  So who are you? Coach Smitty asked me, ‘What do you think about Mallicah Goodman.’ ‘He don’t want it, coach.’ That’s what’s said. Told you, right to your face. That’s bull(bleep). “

Later there are highlights of the special teams playing much better against the Titans, and Armstrong is pleased.

2. Quarterback Jeff Matthews got cut in large part because he couldn’t call out the plays

The rookie from Cornell was waived on Sunday. It was strange that he fell almost completely out of the rotation of repetitions during camp because the Falcons were high on him early.

Now we know why.

During a practice, the cameras pick up Jon Asamoah and quarterback Matt Ryan laughing about Matthews’ pre-snap cadence.

Asamoah: “Your boy has the worst cadence on Earth.”

Ryan: “It sounds nothing like me, right? It’s straight college. I feel bad. Poor guy, he’s trying so hard.”

It turns out lackluster cadence was the least of Matthews’ issue. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter calls him into a meeting and tells Matthews he’s not getting many repetitions in practice because he keeps screwing up the play calls.

Koetter: “I can’t let you take 11 guys out. I love how you are throwing the ball out there. In those drills when we were throwing wheel routes in the wind? That was outstanding. Can’t do it if I am taking you out of the huddle. Tell me how to help you because right now I’m just getting pissed off. Not at you as a person. Because when the littlest thing goes wrong with the verbiage, you are having a tough time overcoming it.”

Matthews: “I don’t know it like I want to know it.”

Koetter: “You’ve got to do something because you are not getting very many reps, and when you don’t get very many reps and you screw them up three days in a row then we’ve got to give those reps to Sean (Renfree) then. It has nothing to do with your abilities and your smarts but you’ve just got to put it together. I know it’s hard and I know if I gave you 20 reps, you wouldn’t make 20 mistakes, probably make 19. Kidding. Don’t get so pressured up. Relax, signal it, visualize it, draw it up more.”

3. Defensive line coach Bryan Cox continues to relentlessly ride Ra’Shede Hageman

There are times in which the big, talented rookie is clearly tired of hearing it from Cox. Cox, as you might expect, doesn’t care.

Hageman sinks down in his chair and pulls his shirt over his head as Cox uses video to critique his play against the Texans.

Hageman protests: “I already know. I don’t want to watch no more.”

Cox responds: “No, you need to watch this (bleep) because it’s embarrassing. I want you to see how (bleeping) pitiful you look. Look at that. Look at this. You are just taking an ass whopping like that?”

Hageman: “I see it.”

Cox: “I’m saying they are making you their jailhouse (bleep) and you are just giving in to it. I put my name on you and I think you are going to be a very good player if you don’t let the streets of Atlanta get you. You are going to be a very good player. But you’ve got to have more pride and character than that. Look at that (bleep). You call yourself an NFL player? That’s (bleeping) ‘High School Harry’ bull(bleep). That’s not good enough. In fact, it (bleeping) sucked. When training camp is over what are you going to do to prepare your body and prepare your mind to get yourself right?”

We see footage of Hageman struggling with running after a practice. Cox is telling Hageman to keep running but Hageman stops to drink water.

“Look, take the (bleeping) water bottle and go!” Cox demands. “Don’t just stand up there. That’s the same bull(bleep) you do in the game. Go! Hey, do you not (bleeping) hear me?”

Eventually Hageman starts running again but Cox, disgusted, leaves for a meeting.

Cox has been by far the best thing about "Hard Knocks" with the Falcons.

4. Joe Hawley is the gold standard for the offensive line

After a montage of the various fights Hawley was involved in during camp (his nickname is “Joe Brawley”) offensive line coach Mike Tice singles out Hawley for praise during a meeting.

Tice: “Lamar (Holmes), watch Joe. We need some of that out of you. That is a guy that does not want his (bleeping) guy to touch the guy that has the (bleeping) ball. That’s how we all need to play. When I start pointing out some of you young guys, honestly, you are going to be disgusted. This is a guy that loves going out there and playing football. This is passion.”

Hard Knocks juxtaposes Hawley’s combative demeanor on the field with his off-field hobby: making pottery.

5. Jacques Smith’s ejection did not go over well with Falcons coaches

Smith is the rookie linebacker who gained notice on Hard Knocks for his multiple scraps with offensive linemen early in camp. He was ejected from the Titans game for hitting an opponent in the facemask long after the whistle.

We see various reactions to this among assistant coaches.

Mike Smith on the sidelines after the penalty: “Stupid. You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

Assistant coach in the press box: “That’s (bleeping) dumb.”

Mike Smith to Jacques Smith on the sideline: “That’s stupid. You’re out of the game.”

Bryan Cox to Jacques Smith as Smith heads to the locker room: “You might have just cost yourself a spot on the roster. That’s (bleeping) stupid.”

Smith survived the first roster cuts.

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