Atlanta Falcons 2015 Season Assessment

Hello Atlanta Falcon fans! Wow, what a season. What started off looking like a season of promise, as we started five and zero, has once again ended miserably. Unfortunately for all ATL fans, the same team that started our losing skid was the same team that ended our season with a loss. So as we rinse the bad taste from our mouths, it’s time to take a hard look at our franchise and discuss how we can improve so that one day we can hoist the Lombardi Trophy in our great city.

The first item that jumps off the page this season is the play of quarterback Matt Ryan, who had one of his worst seasons since entering the league in 2008. In fact, Ryan’s quarterback rating was the lowest ever through a 16 game season. The only season his rating was worse was in 2009, when he only played 14 games, according to ESPN.

The most obvious aspect of Ryan’s game that was off this year, was his penchant to turn the ball over at key moments. The interception that allowed New Orleans to drive for the winning field goal was an exclamation point on Matty Ice’s forte this season, which pales from years gone by. It appears our Matty Ice is nothing more than a lukewarm quarterback after all. However, it would be way to easy, and very unfair, to dump the blame for the Falcons unraveling squarely on Matt’s shoulders. If we’re to be objective we need to start at the place where it all begins, Author Blank.

As a long time Falcon fan I’ve grown to appreciate how Mr. Blank seems to have a deep desire to win a Super Bowl. Every season since he’s been owner he takes time to evaluate the needs of the team, as well as the production of the front office and coaching staff. The one area that could use change, seems to be the one he has chosen to take off the table and that’s the position of general manager.

From the time Thomas Dimitroff stepped into Atlanta he has been hailed as one of the brightest and most gifted GM’s in The League. However, if you take the time to study the draft classes he and his staff have put together the results, as documented by columnist Matthew Chambers, are startling and provide enough evidence for Mr. Blank to begin the search for another GM.

The past couple of seasons the word within the broadcast booth has been the Falcons team has lacked both depth and talent. Should this be surprising, considering ALL the players Thomas Dimitroff drafted in 2010 and 2012 are no longer in the NFL? That’s a total of thirteen players he missed on. Thirteen players, that should’ve at least been serviceable as backups. Everyone knows players get injured in The League, and the winning teams do their homework on the players they draft and make sure to bring in guys that can actually contribute. Everyone, except for Dimitroff. It’s interesting to note that the 2010 Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers were forced to play a allot of backups during that season. More importantly, those backups were playing in key positions along the offensive and defensive lines. Football isn’t rocket science, every team knows players are going to get hurt, and if you ever want to have a prayer of winning a Super Bowl you must draft well. The winning teams prepare for injuries, while the losers make excuses.

Areas that I believe need immediate attention include: The offensive line, the defensive line, linebacker and safety positions need upgrading and depth along both lines of scrimmage.

Some of my observations from the 2015-2016 season: The defense was improved, despite continuing to be ineffective when having an opponent in third and long. To it’s credit, the defense was at times the lone bright spot. Being the only blemish of our division opponent, Carolina Panthers, is very satisfying. We also saw Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman emerge as two major assets and weapons on offense. However, while the defense has improved and it appears the team has some young weapons, the team still lacks depth and talent. So, where do we go from here Falcon fans?

We must improve our player selection through the draft. Teams that build through the draft, and use free agency to plug minor holes are successful teams. It’s from this fans perspective that truly the best place for the Falcons to start is finding another general manager. Thomas Dimitroff isn’t getting the job done. The reason the Falcons are a mediocre team is due to poor draft classes and lack of talent. It’s been proven through history to win Super Bowls you don’t need a roster full of superstars, however, you do need a group of guys who can play and contribute at the NFL level. In order to produce a winning team you must have a general manager who recognizes talent.

Mr. Blank, if you’re listening, Falcon fans are tired of mediocrity. If you truly desire to win, it would be in the best interest of everyone to find a new general manager. We know you’re driven by results. Look at Dimitroff’s draft record and it should be clear, find another general manager so we can begin a winning tradition. Otherwise get ready to blow yet another draft class.

To all the Falcon fans, I’d like to hear from you. What do the Atlanta Falcon’s need to do in order to take the next step and possibly win a Super Bowl? Who knows, maybe Author Blank will listen to us, finally.

2015 NFL DRAFT – Atlanta Falcons edition

Do you smell that? The faint smell of pigskin in the air? No, it’s not BBQ from down the road, it’s the upcoming NFL draft silly. The time of year when we can finally put all the mock drafts away and see what our favorite teams decide to do. While most draft picks boom or bust penitential won’t be realized for at least 2 years the NFL draft is a great place to either begin building a winning organization or destroying it.

While destroying is probably a harsh term to use, any time a franchise chooses to trade away draft picks for single players in my opinion is kin to undermining the potential of a franchise and the end result is destruction of the franchise. Destruction meaning a cellar dweller, last place in the division, loser-ville, the stadium where faithful fans have either given up or they now have no alternative but to wear paper bags over their heads. Remember those days Aint fans? Yeah, you knew that was coming, especially from a die hard Falcon’s fan. However, you can put up that one finger, no not the middle on please, but the index finger, and with that you can boast about your single Super Bowl victory. Something it seems the Falcons are destined never to do. Now, why would I go all negative on my team? Well, perhaps they are about to make yet another draft day blunder.

To set the stage let’s jet back to the year Thomas Dimitroff became General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons. The year was 2008 and the Falcons were coming off yet another losing season. However, when it was announced across the air waves that the Falcons were getting the brightest mind in the business the city seemed to have hope once again. Dimitroff was touted as a scout guru and draft savvy player in the game that is the NFL draft crapshoot. One of the young, bright minds that helped put together the New England dynasty. So, with those kind of accolades who wouldn’t be excited and optimistic about the future of their favorite franchise, right? And every Falcon fan in the audience said, ‘wrong’! I know, I know, why so negative, right? Well, please allow me to give everyone a quick recap of the Dimitroff draft history.

In 2008 the Falcons had the number 3 overall pick, they also chose to jump back into the later part of the first round so in 2008 they actually had two picks. They drafted Matt Ryan, the franchise quarterback, and they also drafted Sam Baker to play left tackle. Baker was not a first round selection on anyone’s draft board and now 7 years later we know why. In 2009 Dimitroff drafted Peria Jerry, bust. In 2010 they drafted Sean Weatherspoon and while he may have been a great ‘locker room’ guy, he truly didn’t produce on the field, which in my book is all that matters. 2011 saw the ‘blockbuster’ trade for Julio Jones which sent the 2012 first round pick to Cleveland, bust. In 2013, the pick was Desmond Trufant, probably the best pick after Matt Ryan in my opinion. And lastly they drafted Jake Matthews at number 6 in the 2014 draft. So, in my overall tally and assessment of players I’d say Dimitroff hit on 3 players; Ryan, Julio and Trufant. Missed on 4 players: Baker, Jerry, 2012 and Weatherspoon and the jury is still out on Matthews. So the guy is 3-4-1, not a good record for a scouting and draft genius do you think? So what happened in 2014?

The 2014 season was abysmal not only for the Falcons, but pretty much the entire NFC South. However, regardless of the record or how close the Falcons came to grasping a playoff spot the deficiencies on the defensive line, linebacker core as well as the offensive line speaks volumes to how poorly Thomas Dimitroff has drafted the last 7 years. The one constant that could be heard all of last season regarding the Falcons was that they were the least talented team in the NFL. The least talented team? Wow, if I were Mr. Blank I think I’d be finding a new General Manager, and just for the record here: Mr. Blank, if you ever want to reach out to me, I’ll work for HALF of what Thomas makes currently and I’ll have you a playoff and Super Bowl bound team within 3 years. How about them apples? And I’m not kidding either. There are 2 things I’m serious about, following after my Lord and Savior Jesus and football. Ok, now you can commence with the jokes and sarcasm but allow me to share the current rumors regarding the 2015 draft.

Currently the Atlanta Falcons have the number eight over all pick. A pick in the top 10! A very coveted spot by any stretch of the imagination and yet, there are rumblings of a trade. Yes Falcon fans, the Dimitroff genius, plans on trading away yet another player or draft pick to move UP. Why? My opinion is the guy is less of a genius and more of an opportunist. Why else would you need to trade up? If you do your homework and study the players you should be able to put together a list of guys who will produce on the field, right? If anything, the Falcons would be better suited to trading DOWN this year and picking up multiple picks. So, what are the Falcons current needs and my suggestions?

The Falcons most pressing need is pass rush. They did a good job in free agency and brought in Adrian Clayborn whom I believe will be a huge upgrade at defensive end. They also brought in Brooks Reid to help shore up the linebacker core. However, that isn’t enough to heal the woes of the bottom of the heap defensive unit. They have to have a stud on the outside that can get after the quarterback and to that I would say draft Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree. The guy is a freak, size and speed wise and as far as his play on the field, all I can say is just study the film, the guys always hungry for the quarterback. The great thing about picking at eight is if all the quality pass rushers are gone you can pick up another quality offensive lineman. Now wouldn’t that make Matty Ice happy? Of course it would, and it would make the receivers happy as well because they’d be catching more passes than views of Matt getting knocked on his can. As for the rest of the draft?

In my opinion the first round is pass rusher OR offensive lineman. The second round should be devoted to either offensive lineman or linebacker. In the third round I’d be looking for either a running back, tight end, linebacker or offensive lineman. For the fourth round pick I’d look at wide receiver, running back or cornerback. And for the fifth through seventh rounds it would be the best player on the board regardless of position. If the best player is a quarterback, pick him. The name of the game should always be picking the best player as opposed to always selecting for a specific need. When you constantly pick for a specific need you back your franchise into a corner and never wiggle out. Then, you are forced to make stupid decisions like giving away draft picks as opposed to dropping back and gaining picks. The latter is the way the four time Super Bowl champs have done it year in and year out and I believe it’s a better route to a championship than mortgaging the future. So, what can we expect this year from the Falcons and Dimitroff?

The 2015 draft in my opinion will be the draft that will either make or break Dimitroff and his legacy as a draft guru. The Falcons have so many holes to fill that there is no way a single player can fill every void. They’ve done a fair job with free agency but they still have so much work to do. I understand Super Bowl winning teams aren’t made up of super stars but they are made up of talented players, something the Falcons don’t have the luxury of right now. What my hopes are as a Falcon fan is the genius Dimitroff at least stays the course and picks at number 8. Collects some solid talent in this draft, meaning either starters or solid backups on the squad, no practice squad guys in this draft class at all. Then, continue to build by collecting more and more talent every year. Football is not rocket science, although some would have you believe it to be, it’s a game. And the NFL draft doesn’t require you to be a genius, but it does require someone who is patient and is willing to do their homework on EVERY player that is entered in it. That’s how you land a franchise quarterback in the third or sixth rounds, you do your homework. One thing for sure, the draft is always entertaining and as a Falcons fan it will most likely be controversial. My only hope is this year that it becomes more productive than previous years or I believe Mr. Dimitroff will be looking for another sucker to buy that he’s a genius. If that happens, Mr. Blank you know where I am and the offer still stands. I’ll do it for half price! Until the first whistle football fans happy draft day to you!

FALCON FANS! DO YOU REALLY WANT TO WIN?

Atlanta Falcons new head coach, Dan Quinn, has finally been sworn in and introduced to the Atlanta media and fans. Now that he’s officially hired there comes the arduous task of reviewing game film and picking through the roster of one of the worst defensive and offensive rushing football teams in the National Football League. A task that’s sure to leave one wanting to pull their hair out, except Quinn comes post coiffure. However, the new head coach is going to have to make some very difficult decisions and even take some drastic measures if he desires to ever reach the pinnacle his late team, the Seahawks, have already achieved. To make his task just a little easier, as a long time Atlanta Falcons fan, I believe I can offer some quick, decisive yet painful decisions that are sure to not only get people talking, but I believe will start the organization moving toward a Super Bowl appearance and victory.

To begin, let me say I was never in favor of the Julio Jones draft trade. If you chronicle from that draft forward it’s very clear to see Atlanta wasn’t able to afford the loss of talent that was given up in that draft for one single player. That said, my first piece of advice would be to TRADE Julio Jones. Currently, the Oakland Raiders are sitting at the number 4 slot and seem to have a desperate need for wide receiver. How about Atlanta gets Oakland’s First and Third round picks for the services of Julio Jones? Now, let me say I would try to sell him to the highest bidder and preferably would love to trade with Tennessee but for now I’m going on what the talking heads are throwing out as team needs. So, Oakland needs a receiver, while Atlanta needs depth and talent. With that trade and the number 4 pick in the 2015 NFL draft, I believe the Falcons should draft Offensive Tackle, Brandon Scherff. BAM! Now, you have two stud offensive tackles to guard our franchise quarterback. Ah, I can already see Matty Ice grinning ear to ear with that pick. And since he’ll have all the time in the world to throw the ball, who cares who he throws it too, just as long as they catch it.

While we’re in the draft lets go ahead and finish out the first round picks. When Atlanta picks again at number 8 I believe they should pick Defensive End, Alvin “Bud” Dupree from Kentucky. If you get the chance, go study some game film of Mr. Dupree and the first thing that jumps off the page is he’s RELENTLESS! He looks like a younger and hungrier John Abraham with more room to grow. Now, before the first 10 picks are off the board the Atlanta Falcons would already have the offensive line anchored on either side plus they’ll be adding a true pass rush threat and all with one trade. I understand there are going to be plenty of people screaming and yelling if the Falcons were to trade Julio. But once the defense is rebuilt with younger, hungrier talent and the team begins winning, I’m sure the fair weathered fans will quietly return to their seats.

Outside of the Julio trade and the addition of 5 draft picks in the first 3 rounds, 9 total once the draft is complete, there will be the obvious cuts of Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora among others who have under performed in the past 3 seasons. While this may appear to be a simplistic yet very drastic approach to improving the team, the harsh truth is if you truly want to win a Super Bowl you have to leave all player allegiance aside and think about the team first.

The Atlanta Falcons have been at the bottom of the league in total team defense the past 3 seasons. The supposed “high power” offense has had trouble making short yardage first downs. The time for change is now, while we still have players who are in their prime to trade. I know the trade Julio line isn’t going to be easy to swallow, but I believe if our supposed wiz of a GM is truly worth his salt he can find a receiver in the later rounds. And who knows, it’s quite possible we get a seventh round receiver that turns into a number one receiver just like the Super Bowl Champ New England Patriots. In the end, it’s all about the team and I want my team to one day be called the Super Bowl Champion Atlanta Falcons. Till that day let’s put team first and RISE UP dirty bird nation.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

 

The 2014 football season has officially ended for the Atlanta Falcons. This year 6-10 was all they could muster. Although it was 2 wins better than the 2013 season, it’s still far short of what the city of Atlanta has been hungry for, a SUPER BOWL WIN. So what now? Where do we go from here?

I hate to say this, but I told you so. Way back in 2012 I wrote an article titled “How Bright Is The Atlanta Falcons Future?”, and in that article I stated all of my concerns starting with the misses at the front rounds of the draft as well as mortgaging draft picks. Just so Atlanta Falcon fans KNOW what was given up for the selection of Julio Jones I’d like to present you with the players that COULD have been picked but weren’t in the first 3 rounds.

Round 1 Muhammad Wilkerson who has 23.5 sacks in his NFL career. Round 2 Justin Houston who has 48.5 sacks in his NFL career.

(Combined they’re ONLY 11 fewer than the ENTIRE FALCON DEFENSE.  From 2012-2014 Falcons had 83 total sacks. Houston and Wilkerson had 72 total sacks. WHAT?!)

Round 3 Jordan Cameron who was a 2013 Pro-Bowl tight end, and the list could go on and on but I’ll stop. Mainly because it just hurts as a Falcons fan to always see what could have been. Plus, living in the past never gets you any where, but we need to keep it as a reminder. A reminder of the poor decisions that the leaders of the franchise have made in the draft. It’s well chronicled that teams that win consistently win in the draft. Something the Falcons have not done. And news today on the 29th of December is Mr. Blank plans on hiring a new head coach and with him a new coaching staff. So, what will be the excuse next season if things don’t lead to a Super Bowl victory?

“Oh, um, we have to get acclimated to one another?”

“Um, our offense and defense had to learn a new scheme?”

Good gravy and roman statues people this is football not rocket science, even though the GM’s would like for you to think it’s a very delicate formula. Well, I have news for them, it’s NOT!  Here’s your formula for a good team. Pick guys who can play the game and who play hungry! Look for talent, pick talent and then perfect talent. BOOM, there it is!

I love the Atlanta Falcons, I truly do and I will be a fan no matter what their win loss record is at the end of the season, but what makes being a fan of the Falcons so frustrating is knowing what needs to be done and watching them time after time continue down the road that leads to no where. But who knows, maybe while heading down that road they’ll run into Jerry Jones, who seems after years and years of the win now attitude and drafting high profile players has finally started becoming wise in the draft, and learn from the errors of his ways. But until they can finally hit some home runs in the draft all I can say is please Falcons, please! Let’s get this right and make 2015 the year when the Dirty Bird nation will finally RISE UP!!

A Silver Lining For Browns Fans?

Good day pig skin fans and I hope everyone out there is enjoying the beginning of the 2013 season. It’s amazing to me that a year ago I wrote a critical piece regarding the Cleveland Browns and their 2012 draft selections and here we are just one year removed and their new management is already throwing in the towel to make room for the 2014 draft. 

As I stated in my earlier piece, ‘What Is Optimism For A Browns Fan’, I was very vocal in my disapproval of how Cleveland mishandled the 2012 draft with the picks they acquired from the Atlanta Falcons in 2011. At the time I was hoping Cleveland would pick up Morris Clairborne and Courtney Upshaw to solidify their defense. Especially being in the AFC North where defense seems to reign supreme. Looking back I also stated there was no way I was a closet Cleveland Browns fan, mainly due to my blood being black and red for my beloved Atlanta Falcons, however, when I see a franchise have so much turmoil my heart goes out to them and I guess you could say some burnt orange and brown has been showing up in my blood samples as of late.

The Lombardi trophy is the holy grail for every franchise in the National Football League. General managers and head coaches livelihood hang in the balance with every draft and every game of the season. And in today’s NFL, games are decided literally by a few yards and a play or two. A missed tackle here, a missed blocking assignment there and sprinkle in a dropped pass or two and you are staring at the unemployment line and hoping to find some insurance cheaper than Obama care.

Every year it seems there is a shiny new toy that makes it’s way to the top of the toy box and teams are always looking for that knight in shining armor to lead them to the promised land. This 2013-2014 NFL draft year seems to be the year of the quarterback as there will be close to half a dozen viable options for those teams at the top of the draft. Now, it’s no secrete Cleveland will be vying for one of those quarterbacks. However, I would caution the Browns against going after the very shiny toys at the top of the toy box and neglect building an offensive line as well as a good defense to compliment their franchise quarterback.

At this point I really don’t feel the need to give too much of a history lesson on the quarterbacks that have won the Super Bowl because for most of them the record books have yet to be written to be able to make a quantitative argument over which ones are elite and which ones are not. But looking at some of the winning Super Bowl quarterbacks from the last 13 years we can see that apart from the Manning brothers who garnered 3 trophies total (2 for Eli and 1 for Payton) and Mr. Tom ‘Terrific’ Brady who has gobbled up just as many as the Manning brothers on his own let’s review some of the past winners. Does the name Brad Johnson ring a bell? Maybe Trent Dilfer will sound familiar? Neither one of those guys sound familiar to you? Well both are currently wearing Super Bowl rings. Other names of course are going to sound more familiar as the history books haven’t been written on their careers such as: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Rothlisberger and of course our current champion Joe Flacco. One thing I would never argue is that all 4 of these guys are good quarterbacks. Each has a different set of skills with regard to the quarterback position, but all 4 are good. However, a quarterback only accounts for one fourth of a football teams total approach. The other three quarters are dependent upon the offensive line, the defense and also special teams. If any team is not established in all 4 of these areas I can assure you there will be no Lombardi trophy in their future.

I’m always astounded with the terminology that begins to surround certain quarterbacks, one such term that is used rather frequently today is “game manager”. Basically the “experts” and talking heads love to use this term if they can’t label a quarterback “elite” in the NFL. My question to them would be, was Trent Dilfer a “game manager” or an “elite” quarterback? Was Brad Johnson a “game manager” or an “elite” quarterback? Either way it doesn’t matter does it? Both are Super Bowl Champs. So where does all of this leave you Cleveland fans? I was getting to it, in my usual round about way, lol!

It seems you are left where your management should have started a year ago, at the draft. There are no quick fixes for a struggling team or organization. However, building a solid offensive line and defensive presence would certainly be my prescription for winning. It seems the Atlanta Falcons have also opted to forgo the proven receipt for winning in favor of a patch work defensive unit and duct tape offensive line, I can assure you Cleveland fans, Falcon fans are just hoping their franchise quarterback isn’t on Obama care before the end of the season. So pick up your chins Browns fans! The day is looking brighter and there is a silver lining for your team. Perhaps you finally have found a management group that will get back into the kitchen, pull out that proven receipt of winning and dust it off and begin putting the correct ingredients for winning into the organization: build a solid offensive line that plays as a unit, a mean and talented defense, an error free and productive special teams unit and of course sprinkle in a brilliant and precise “game manager” who will ultimately lead you to one day hoisting that Lombardi trophy high in the air, till that day Browns fans, you can count of this die hard Falcon fan, cheering on the brown and orange, just a little bit, with you each pig skin season. Till next time this is your fan presence in the ATL.

My 2013 Atlanta Falcons Draft Rant

 

OK, we are knee deep into the 2013 NFL draft and honestly after looking at the draft board and seeing what the Atlanta Falcons have done so far I really felt I needed some therapy.  So here I am sitting with you, those of you who are willing to listen to my rant.  

Ever since Thomas Dimitroff has been the General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons he has created the m.o. of a mover and shaker when it comes to the draft.  Now while I agree there are times in which you have to be aggressive, especially when there is a talent such as Julio Jones, I don’t believe in a year where your needs out number your picks you have the luxury of trading away draft picks, especially in the first three rounds of the draft.

Prior to this year’s draft the Falcons needs were corner back, offensive line, defensive line, line backer and tight end.  Entering into this draft they had a total of 11 picks.  While most of the picks were in the 4th and 7th rounds this draft was one in which the Falcons needed every single pick.  In fact, I believe most Falcon fans were hoping they would trade out of the first round just so they could gather more picks to build depth on the team.  Instead, on day one Thomas Dimitroff trades up 8 spots for a corner back and forfeits their 3rd and 6th round picks.

While the story has not been written about Desmond Trufant CB out of Washington and Atlanta’s number one draft pick this year, let’s take a glimpse into the 3rd round and see who the Falcons forfeited an opportunity of selecting. Will Davis CB from Utah St., Brandon Williams DT 6’1” 335 pounds from Missouri Southern St., Sam Montgomery DE 6’3” 262 pounds from LSU.  All three were selected after the Falcons pick at 30 and all 3 in my opinion will be solid NFL players.  In fact, I believe both Williams and Montgomery will be starters and impact players.  As it stands right now the Falcons are dangerously thin in depth on the defensive and offensive lines and when you look at what their opponents in the NFC South have done in the draft, I believe Matt Ryan will probably be getting his agent to iron out that contract sooner then later, because he may be staring down double digit sack numbers this season.

So what were some key additions to the Falcons opponents?  As of this post the Saints have added Kenny Vaccaro SS from Texas and BIG John Jenkins from Georgia who is 6’4” 346 and will see Matty Ice twice.  The Carolina Panthers have added top DT Star Lotulelei 6’2” 311, and Kawann Short DT 6’3” 299 and both seem hungry for some Dirty Bird QB. And finally Tampa Bay has added Jonathan Banks CB 6’2” 185, Akeem Spence DT 6’1” 307, and William Gholston DE 6’6” 281, and lets not forget Darrell Revis who is a shut down corner.  All seem equally hungry for some dirty bird QB as well.

Now granted my beloved Falcons haven’t even had their first training camp and already it might seem I’m throwing in the towel.  That’s NOT the case at all!  When it comes to football there is one immeasurable when it comes to players and that is coaching and I believe in this coaching staff.  I believe that Mike Smith, Mike Nolan and Dirk Koetter will get the most out of the players that make this year’s team.  My greatest concern is fielding a team that lacks the depth necessary to reach the illusive Lombardi Trophy.

The Falcons were 10 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl this year, 10 yards, and that has left them even hungrier than before.  So hungry in fact that I believe they may have lost touch with the reality of all the glaring holes they needed to fill and believed one player was going to put them over the top.  I want to be clear, in no way do I doubt Mr. Trufant will be a good addition for my team, however, in a year in which you have put all your eggs in one basket, I would think you’d make sure that the basket was well reinforced so you don’t lose what you have worked so hard to build, a fan base that loves them and finally believes and a team capable of WINNING a Super Bowl.

Thank you for listening, I feel so much better now, lol!!

Regardless of what happens, come on Atlanta Falcons, RISE UP!!

2013 Pre-Draft Atlanta Falcons Review

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.

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

It has been a while since I last wrote about my beloved Dirty Birds and honestly I was just waiting to see how the majority of the pre-season went before I passed any judgment.  First off let me say that I am not a statistics guy.  Unless I went and did the research I couldn’t begin to tell you what Matt Ryan’s quarterback rating was after last nights game.  I couldn’t even tell you what the stats on individual players were but having been a football fan and observing it for most of my life I do believe I can offer some unbiased insight into the Atlanta Falcons and what the 2012 season potentially holds for them.

One key item the coaching staff as well as General Manager Thomas Dimetroff has been emphasizing the entire off season is being more consistent.

Consistent  To be in harmony or agreement.  Holding to the same principal or practice.  (Webster’s Dictionary)

What that tells me is prior to this current grouping of coaches the organization has not been on the same page when it came to the direction of the team.  After watching the first 3 preseason games it seems this staff is finally working together in harmony.  The offense and defense both look more relaxed and seem to be adjusting to the new schemes that the coaching staff’s have implemented, however I still see some need for concern when it comes to the Falcons reaching the ultimate prize of a Super Bowl championship.

It is never good and I repeat NEVER a good sign at then beginning of the season to hear the sports talking heads say; “if the team stays healthy they can make a run at a championship”.  This is professional football and no team stays completely healthy through an entire season.  Every team is going to suffer injuries to players some of them will be key players, we as fans are just always praying it doesn’t happen to our team.  The only thing that prevents a team from falling off a cliff when key members go down is having quality backup players.  This is evident from the championship Green Bay Packers team from a couple years ago.  Devastated by offensive and defensive injuries to key players the Packers were able to plug in quality back up players and limp through the regular season winning enough games to make it into the playoffs.  As the season came to an end players that had been injured were able to return and of course they went on their magical run to becoming Super Bowl champs.  Had it not been for quality depth the Packers had obtained through the draft there is no way they could have weathered the storm of injuries that occurred and become Super Bowl champs.

This has been my biggest concern for the Falcons.  Since Thomas Dimitroff has been in Atlanta the Falcons have given up draft picks to either acquire players from other teams or to move up in the draft to get players they believe would be a good fit for the team.  It is my biggest fear that they have sacrificed draft picks for a win now mentality and that mentality will come back to haunt them in the end.

So far this preseason the Falcons have lost their starting full back (Bradie Ewing) and their back up left tackle (Will Svitek) for the rest of the 2012 season.  Their starting stud defensive tackle (Corey Peters) has not played a down during the preseason due to a foot injury and their middle line backer (Akeem Dent) suffered a nasty concussion during the first preseason game and as Brian Finneran, retired Falcons receiver, said; “Not good when middle linebacker gets a concussion that badly.  He has to hit hard all year.”  Remember, they can make a run IF everyone stays healthy.   Now, do I expect the Falcons to have a pro bowl player backing up any position?  No, there’s no way that could happen even if I’d love for that to be the case it’s pure fantasy and to the disappointment of many I’m a realist.

Realistically I can see a team that is going to struggle this season.  I see a team that although they have allot of weapons on offense I just don’t believe they have the offensive line depth to give Matt Ryan the time he is going to need to get the ball to his play makers.  I don’t believe the defensive line or the line backer core are deep enough to sustain any more injuries and teams will find ways to flaunt their vulnerabilities on the lines of scrimmage.  I know it sounds like I am tossing allot of negatives out there to fellow Falcon fans but reality is this team does not have the depth at this point in time to make it to the promised land.

I am excited for this season however.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what coaches Koetter and Nolan bring to the table with their schemes.  I’m looking forward to cheering on my beloved Falcons regardless of wins or losses.  Besides that’s what it means to be a fan right?  We need to stand by our team regardless of wins or losses.  I do believe the Falcons are heading in the right direction by finally becoming consistent.  I am hopeful that Thomas Dimitroff will learn that NFL champions are not built quickly, it takes time and patience.  You have to build through the draft taking the best players that fall to you and not by reaching and giving up draft picks.  It’s a hard lesson to learn but once realized it can pay off big time.  Just ask Packer fans and Giant fans, it is better to build slowly through the draft and reach the ultimate prize then to try and build quickly and never realize it at all.  Regardless if the Falcons hold up the Lombardi trophy or not this season one thing is clear to me.  It’s time to play football and for that I’m both excited and thankful to be a Falcon fan.  Go Dirty Birds!

 

What is optimism for a Browns fan

I know, I know, I see all the dirty looks and hear some asking why would I, a die hard Atlanta Falcon fan, write about the Cleveland Browns. It is something that has actually been on my mind since the 2011 draft. The same draft the Falcons traded draft picks with the Browns in order to jump up and get Julio Jones. Honestly, prior to that draft I didn’t care a thing about the Browns, but once the trade happened and the Browns drafted 3 of the players I wanted the Falcons to draft my obsession with the Browns became clear to me.  I am not here to make some big announcement that I am a closet Browns fan who is finally coming out like Anderson Cooper, (only he cheers for a totally different team), far from it, I just want to give my take on the Browns for this season.

In the 2011 NFL draft the Browns made a blockbuster trade with the Atlanta Falcons, to my dismay, and Atlanta traded away a total of 4 picks for one Julio Jones (we won’t get into the semantics of the trading of places in the first round as a draft pick).  And when that trade was made I was even more surprised that the Browns drafted 3 of the players I had on my draft board going to the Falcons.  I had Jabaal Sheard (defensive end), Greg Little (wide receiver), and Jordan Cameron (tight end) all going to the Atlanta Falcons. As some of you may know, in 2011 the Falcons showed they needed a replacement for John Abraham or at least a compliment on the opposite side, they also needed a complimentary receiver for Roddy White and they needed an understudy tight end for Tony Gonzalez that would be able to step in and take over at some point.  What the Falcons got instead was Julio Jones, who may end up being a dominant receiver, but the story is not complete on Jones as of yet.  So when the Browns made those picks my curiosity peaked and I began to follow them some last season, just to see how those players would work out and to my surprise, they worked out quite well for Cleveland.  Sheard had 8.5 sacks, Little had more catches then any other Browns receiver, he also dropped allot but so did Jones and Cameron well, he was a bench player as was expected. So I was beginning to think, “Wow, the Browns have taken a huge step forward”. But then the 2012 draft happened and Cleveland well became Cleveland again deciding to take the road to mediocrity instead of toward greatness.

In the 2012 NFL draft the Browns first 2 picks were Trent Richardson (running back) and Brandon Weeden (quarterback).  At first glance these seem to be pretty good picks, however when compared to other picks that were available and the opportunity for Cleveland to really make a jump in the AFC North the Browns fell way short of the mark.  The Browns had an opportunity to pick Morris Claiborne, Courtney Upshaw or any number of defensive studs that would have made an impact for the Browns.  Instead they chose to take the easy route and pick 2 offensive players that by all accounts now will actually be ineffective in the NFL.  I will not argue Richardson could be a good running back, however, (this comes from an Alabama fan), he was getting injured and dinged up playing in the SEC and my main concern with any team that picked him or any running back that high in the draft is the durability factor in the NFL.  In one of the hardest hitting defensive conferences in the AFC much less the NFL I can see Richardson playing about 8 or 10 games in a season.  That is not the productivity you want from a first round pick.

And as far as Weeden, let’s just say it was a reach to take a guy at the bottom of the first round who was graded as a fourth round pick at best.  Plus, why would you take a guy who is 28 year old to be your franchise quarterback. I don’t mean to sound age discriminatory but wouldn’t you rather take a guy you’re going to have for at least 10 years instead of a guy you may have for maybe 4 years as your franchise quarterback.  I mean the ink is barely dry on the jerseys after 4 years.  Cleveland fans your franchise had a chance to change direction and possibly become a defensive powerhouse in an already defensive dominant division and compete for a playoff spot but instead of taking that road your ownership decided to take the road of mediocrity.

Look Browns fans, you know first of all that you are in the toughest division in the AFC right?  I mean you have the perennial playoff teams of the Steelers and Ravens every year staring down at you, and now it seems your evil step brother the Bengal’s have found their way back from irrelevance to make the playoffs last year. In fact, the Browns were the only team in the AFC North to NOT make the playoffs in the 2011-2012 post season.  I know it is frustrating for Browns fans to always be starring up at division rivals.  But when you constantly shoot yourself in the foot like your ownership has been doing you really have no one to blame but yourself. I know the regular season hasn’t started yet and every team is hinged on the positives but for Browns fans it seems that optimism will have to wait till the 2013 draft and hopefully you can make the choices that will lead you back into the playoffs. I usually like to end on a positive note, but for this one I guess the most positive thing I can say for Browns fans is hopefully you will have a very high draft pick in the 2013 draft and ownership won’t screw it up again.

Fantasy Football Warmup – Your Picks

Well ladies and gentlemen it is finally here!  The start of training camp for the NFL and if Hank Williams Jr. was in the room right now I would want to hear him say those 6 sweet words that are music to my ears, “Are you ready for some football?” and the answer is a resounding YES I AM!!!!!

One year after the lockout teams are gathering to see who has what it takes to make an NFL roster.  Head coaches, coordinators, position coaches and even general managers are getting together to see what players fit their schemes, what players are best suited as backups and which players will be let go. It is a very exciting time for all teams and for all fans.  Fans finally get a chance to see their teams 2012 draft picks up close and personal and see if they can live up to expectations.  It is a chance to start anew for some veteran players and a chance to see where their place will be when the season starts.

But as I write this today I want to address the rabid fan out there as well as the fantasy geeks.  I would like to pose a question and hopefully I can get a few of you to participate.  I am wondering if you have what it takes to be a General Manager of a NFL franchise.  Now don’t worry this is not going to be some competition like American Ninja Warrior but I am wondering who can be the most creative when it comes to an NFL roster.  The question I am posing is this: If you were the general manager of a new NFL franchise and you had the opportunity to pick the best position players in the league today who would you pick?  Now, I am not going to ask you to fill a 52 man roster, just pick a Quarterback, Running back, Left Tackle, and Wide Receiver  for your offensive players and for your defense just pick a NFL defense that you would style your defense after.  I know this is basically fantasy 101 but come on it’s nice to dream about being a general manager and having the best players play for you isn’t it? So let me know who your choices are as we gear up for the 2012 NFL season.  To open it up, here are the players I would choose to build my franchise:

Quarterback – Aaron Rodgers

Running Back – Arian Foster

Left Tackle – Jake Long

Wide Receiver – Julio Jones

Defense – Houston Texans

Ok, there you have my picks, now let me see yours.  Oh, and welcome to the 2012 NFL Season! I’m sure as hell ready for some football!