So much for my favorite trivia question: What Falcons QB led Boston College to their most recent ACC Championship Game appearance? The answer, of course, is Davis, who became starter midway through the 2008 season, one year after Matt Ryan had also taken BC to the ACC title. I’ll miss, you devious and nasty trivia question. However, if this makes the Falcons better, I can live with it.
What the Falcons got:
QB TJ Yates was nearly released from a crowded Texans QB depth chart, but the Falcons saw enough to pre-empt the release. With the drafting of Tom Savage along with the presence of new starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and backup Case Keenum, the former playoff starter was 3rd string or worse.
Yates, isn’t great, but at least he’s something of a known quantity at backup QB, which the Falcons sorely lacked. We really have nothing to go on when it comes to Dominique Davis and Sean Renfree other than their pre-draft profiles, which were hardly exciting.
A 5th round pick in 2011 out of North Carolina, where in 45 games he averaged a meager 6 yards per play, Yates was notably pressed into action as a rookie after a Matt Schaub injury. The Texans won the first 3 games in which he played, but it really wasn’t by his hand: 55%, 558, 3-1, and 6.64 Y/A aren’t eyepopping numbers. Houston didn’t top 20 points in any of the 3 games, but Yates avoided mistakes and basically just let his defense win games. In the 3rd game, against the Bengals, Yates even played quite well. He had a bad game against Carolina and two games of little consequence to finish out the regular season. In the Wild Card round rematch against Cincinnati, he again didn’t do much to help or hurt the team, but neither did Andy Dalton, and the Texans won 31-10. Against Baltimore’s attacking defense, Yates was exposed (like any 5th round rookie in the playoffs should be), with just over 5 yards per play, no touchdowns, and 3 turnovers in a 20-13 loss.
Yates was one-dimensional as a QB, with 73% of his yards coming on passes within 9 yards of the LOS. He was at his best, however, throwing intermediate passes over the middle, going 23/30 for 410 on such passes. Throwing deep, Yates was virtually useless: 3 completions on 22 attempts for just 111 yards. He wasn’t discernibly better or worse against blitzes.
Yates has only attempted 32 passes since that rookie season, so it’s hard to say how much the Marietta, GA native has really progressed, but it can’t be any easier to tell how Dominique Davis has progressed over the same time. With Yates the Falcons get a backup QB with playoff experience for just $640K. Experience doesn’t mean excellence, but it’s better than neither.
What the Falcons gave up:
LB Akeem Dent was drafted two rounds before Yates in 2011, going 91st overall. Like Yates, who attended Pope HS, Dent had a local connection to the Falcons as a former Georgia Bulldog. Given the circumstances of Sean Weatherspoon‘s injury, a trade of fellow ILB Dent doesn’t make you think Dent had much of a chance of beating out Joplo Bartu for the chance to start next to Paul Worrilow.
Dent played sparingly as a rookie but was a full fledged starter at MLB in 2012. He was solid against the run (as many young linebackers are) and weak in coverage (ditto). In coverage, he allowed a 87.5% completion rate for 247 yards on 24 passes. It was bad. However, as the year went on, he showed overall improvement, having his two best games in weeks 16 and 17.
Whatever progress was made in his sophomore season was lost in 2013, as Dent regressed significantly. He was no longer effective against the run and remained a liability in pass coverage, allowing 89.5% completion on 19 passes for 177 yards and 3 TD. He made or assisted on 43 tackles, and missed 6, which isn’t a great ratio. It was a lost and disappointing season for what the Falcons hoped was a developing player.
Dent was owed over $700K this season, so the Falcons were able to save money by upgrading a backup at one spot while turning another backup role over to rookies Marquis Spruill and Tyler Starr. It frees up a small bit of money should the team want to make a run at a veteran ILB to step in for the injured Weatherspoon.
While Yates would likely have been a free agent by the end of the day, the Falcons identified him as a cost-efficient upgrade at QB2, and found a great match in Houston – whose LB depth chart looked like Atlanta’s QB chart, with clear starters and nothing but question marks behind them (Houston’s backup ILB were Jeff Tarpinian and Justin Tuggle). Both teams get experience where they sorely lacked it by swapping a pair of below-average players. That’s a good trade.
But damn it, I’m going to miss that trivia question.