View Full Version : Offseason Primer: Atlanta Falcons

01-02-2008, 08:06 PM
The Falcons, at least in my opinion, have the least to work with of any team down at the bottom of the NFL. No coach, no quarterback, no wide receiver, a bad offensive line and a suspect defense.

So, where do you start? Obviously, the search for a new coach is priority No. 1 for the Falcons. They’ve already been spurned by Bill Parcells who ended up as a Dolphin consultant (read: GM), instead of as a Falcon. His choice wasn’t a dumb one. So who’s going to replace Petrino? Well, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was a coordinator with his first NFL job, because to previous head coaches in the NFL, this job looks bleak. Several coordinators have already been contacted, both from the Dallas Cowboys in Tony Sparano and Jason Garrett. I think this process will take some time, so we’ll just have to see.

The lingering effects of the Michael Vick scandal are going to last well into next year for the Falcons and be the biggest thing on the new coach’s mind. Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich have led the team this season, and it’s unlikely, I believe, that either will remain for next year. I think the Falcons really need to take a chance on one of Andre Woodson, Matt Ryan or Brian Brohm, in the draft. We know they are picking top five, and you’d have to think that not all three will be off the board by the time they pick.

One of the few positions where the Falcons are set, is at running back. Warrick Dunn will be 33 next season and could retire, but most likely will return for his seventh season in a Falcons uniform. He’s a tough runner, despite his size, and can still be a productive NFL running back, if healthy. Jerious Norwood is a very good second option for the Falcons. If they wanted to bring in a third guy on the lower rung of the free agents, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but no need for the Falcons to spend a lot of money at running back. Ovie Mughelli is a good fullback and should be back at the position for the Falcons next year.

Alge Crumpler was one of the best tight ends in football when he was Michael Vick’s favorite target. His numbers fell off quite a bit this year as he was hindered by injuries and was one of the bigger malcontents on the team, but Crumpler still caught 42 passes for 444 yards and five touchdowns in just 14 games. He’s a real strength if the Falcons can keep him healthy.

The Falcons are atrocious at the wide receiver position. Veteran Joe Horn was brought in last off season to bolster the young receiving core and give them a down-the-field threat. The problem was that he was 35 years old and apparently has lost a step. Horn caught just 27 passes in 12 games, and was nothing near what the Falcons were hoping for. Roddy White is their best option as the third year receiver finally came into his own, catching 83 passes for 1,202 yards this season. The Falcons will need to have another season like this from him next year. Michael Jenkins will be entering his fifth season next year and he never has become what they thought he could be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft. With names like Bernard Berrian, Patrick Crayton and Bryant Johnson on the free agent market, don’t be surprised if the Falcons are active. Also, don’t be surprised if they draft a wide receiver, as well.

No need to sugarcoat it, the Falcons had probably the worst offensive line in the NFL this past season. It’s not easy to rebuild a unit in one season, but that’s just about what the Falcons tried to do. Quinn Ojinnaka, a fifth round selection in 2006, may get a pass at left tackle, because this was his first year starting, but he is at the most important position on the line, and if the Falcons do bring in a young quarterback, they need to protect that quarterback, and it certainly begins at left tackle. Rookie guard Justin Blalock could be a good one, and I would expect him to start at one of the guard positions, most likely at left guard, next year. D’Anthony Batiste stepped in and started four games this season, but the journeyman – who has played with three teams in three seasons – isn’t a solution for the Falcons at the guard slot.

Eight year starter Todd McClure should return for another season at center. He is the stalwart of the offensive line, and the only link to the group that helped the Falcons lead the league in rushing just two years ago. Kynan Forney started fourteen games for the Falcons this year, and was part of the 2006 group – though he played in just seven games that season. A healthy Forney would help bolster the right side of the line, where the Falcons really struggled this season. Tyson Clabo, who started 11 games at right tackle probably won’t be at the position next year for the Falcons, at least as a starter. Clabo, of course, was signed as an undrafted free agent for Denver in 2004, but didn’t make the squad. Out of football in 2005, he popped up in Atlanta, but probably isn’t the solution.

If the Falcons choose not to take a quarterback with their top pick, the other choice would probably be along the offensive line.

There are plenty of young players that could turn into a tough defense next year for the Falcons, but 2007 was a real struggle, coming in 29th in total defense and 29th in points allowed.

John Abraham, a big free agent three years ago for the Falcons, is still an effective pass rusher, and had one of his best sack years this year with 10. Other than Abraham, though, the defensive line is very young. Jamaal Anderson’s rookie campaign at the other defensive end spot was lackluster, but Anderson has good size and decent speed for a defensive end. If Abraham can have the type of pass-rushing year that he did this year, it will allow Anderson to flourish on the other side. Jonathan Babineaux are is a talented, young DE, but he’s going to need a better complement than Montavious Stanley. There’s not a whole lot of depth along the defensive line, either, and that’s something the Falcons should address in the offseason.

Michael Boley will be entering his fourth season next year at the strong side linebacker position, after having a pretty decent season this year. He had 109 tackles, three sacks two interceptions and seven pass deflections. As he continues to develop, he is a player the Falcons can build around.

Keith Brooking had 110 tackles, two sacks and four pass deflections, but he’ll be entering his 11th season next year and his 11th season as the starting middle linebacker. He’s still productive, but will he hold up after playing seven straight seasons without missing a start? Demorrio Williams will be entering his fifth season at strong side linebacker for the Falcons, and you have to wonder if he’s the answer. He’s also a free agent, and are the Falcons willing to give up money to keep him at the position? If they don’t, they could address the position in the draft, or allow 2007 fourth-round pick Stephen Nicholas to step in and see if he can be a starter in the NFL.

DeAngelo Hall is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but he was exposed a little this year, with not much else around him. Chris Houston, a second round pick this past year is at the opposite cornerback position, and should still be the starter next year, but has to be more productive. He had no interceptions this season and nine pass deflections. Lawyer Milloy will be entering his 13th season next year, if he sticks around. I wouldn’t be too surprised if this veteran retires with Atlanta facing a lot of rebuilding. Chris Crocker played free safety for the Falcons this season, and may be around next season as well, with as many holes as they have on this team.

It’s time for Morten Andersen to retire, right? I mean, seriously. The guy can’t even kick field goals longer than 40 yards, can he? Andersen, if he comes back, will be entering his 26th season. That’s not a typo: he’s 26th season.

Michael Koenen was middle of the pack as far as punting statistics are concerned, but if the Falcons bring Andersen back, they’ll probably stick with Koenen as well, because he’s got a strong enough leg to kick off.

Jerious Norwood is a capable returnman, and should keep the duties for next season.

Jwalk - JayCutty6Goes - CasinoRoyal
01-02-2008, 08:35 PM
Hopefully Shanny is the HC in Atlanta.