Well it’s been over three weeks since my favorite NFL team lost in the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons, and the sting is just about gone, almost that is, but before we enter into the “post” NFL season and all the talking heads have had their say on what needs my team has, I wanted to step in and give my two cents worth.
If you have kept up with my BnATL blog you already know I wasn’t very high on the Falcons going into this past season. That being said this past season they completely blew me away and I’m very sorry for ever doubting them. Please accept my apology Falcon nation. They far and away over achieved in my estimation with regards to the defense and all I can say is coaching does matter. On both sides of the ball Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan are solid coaches and they proved it. The defense playing with no real sack threat on the D-line, a very thin line backer core and a vertically challenged secondary made the most of their talents and nearly went the distance. Mike Nolan should have received coordinator of the year for a job very well done. The offensive line for the Falcons played their guts out. No running game or sketchy at best and Ryan starting the season off with a swagger helped hide allot of the flaws in their offensive attack. The question can this team win in the post season has been answered with a resounding YES. But now they face the next big question, what’s it going to take for this team to reach the next level and finally win a Super Bowl? Aside from resigning the free agents on the team this is what I believe needs to be done for this team to take the next step.
There’s been tons of talk about the need for an edge pass rusher. Abraham is in his mid-thirties where is the pressure going to come from on the D-Line? In my opinion it’s been over emphasized. Two years ago the Falcons spent big bucks in free agency to bring in Ray Edwards from the Vikings and it didn’t pan out. Now I hear rumblings from the talking heads to bring in Cliff Avril from the Lions. The only question you need to ask is who are the interior defensive linemen that both Edwards and Avril played beside and the answer would be pro-bowlers. During his time in Minnesota Edwards played alongside the Williams “brothers” (no relation) Pat and Kevin and Cliff Avril, oh he’s only been playing beside that mountain of a man by the name of Suh. So while an edge rusher should be one of the priorities, in my opinion the Falcons need to first look to the interior of the D-Line. The Atlanta Falcons ended the season 21st against the run and 23rd against the pass. History has proven there is only one true factor that produces a Super Bowl winning team, DEFENSE.
The NFL has definitely undergone a metamorphosis when it comes to the emphasis on offense. In 2013, not only are defenses going to have to worry about the running back, they have to worry about the running quarterback as well as the deep ball. In the playoffs the Falcons were victimized by both Seattle and San Fransico because they could not stop the run nor could they put pressure on the quarterback. So what do the dirty birds need to do to make a step in the right direction? I believe it has to start in the middle. First they need to draft a large, strong, game changing defensive nose tackle. The kind of nose tackle that it takes two offensive line men to block on every down. When you clog the middle of the line you do two things; free up the edge rushers with only single blockers and clog the middle of the field taking away at least one of a team’s offensive options. So, I would suggest that first pick in the draft be spent on a large, strong, athletic nose tackle.
Second I believe they need a run stopping, hard thumping middle linebacker. During his time in Atlanta, Curtis Loften was under appreciated. He may not have been the best cover linebacker but he would put a helmet on a running back and make him think twice about coming up the middle. Once you take care of those two positions teams won’t be able to just rattle off 15 and 20 yards up the middle like they did on the Falcons this season.
The final component is for the offense to have a true running threat. While I love Quizz and all that brings to the table, he is not a three down back. If you think Michael Turner slowed down after getting the ball over 300 times a season, and he’s a big man, imagine what Quizz is going to be like in a year or two. The running back by committee is the way to go. Let’s get a young thumper in the draft and get back to some ground and pound. It will also free up Julio and Roddey because the Safety can’t just sit back and double cover without worrying for a home run by the running back. There is a lot of talk right now about bringing in Stephen Jackson to the Falcons. While I am a huge fan of Jacksons, the mistake this team could end up making is waiting too long to retool. We are currently experiencing this with the possibility of Tony retiring. The Falcons should have probably drafted a tight end a couple of seasons ago and been grooming him, instead they are almost in panic mode looking for a tight end. In the NFL you have to look toward the future if you want to be a perennial winner. Two great examples are the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins. Washington is consistently playing catch up with the win now mentality. They finally won their division after a thirteen year drought and they reached the playoffs for the first time in five years this past season. The last time the Redskins won a Super Bowl was 1991 when George H W Bush was president. New England on the other hand, since 2000 has won their division 10 times, have been in the playoffs 10 times and won 3 Super Bowls. The main reason New England stays relevant, they aren’t afraid of youth, they embrace it. If the Falcons want to stay relevant in the NFL they need to stop bringing in older players to fill holes and start bringing in hungry young players. As we saw this past season coaching accounts for allot in this league.
It all starts in the middle of the D-Line and then moves toward young hungry players. Look, I was wrong about what I thought the Falcons record was going to be this past season and I’m man enough to admit it. Unless the Falcons make the adjustments I mentioned above this team is headed down the same path of many a once great teams that thought they could just patch holes and get by, and the name of that path is irrelevance. Good luck Falcons I’m here pulling for you.