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Friday September 5, 2008 10:47 pm

NFL Preview: Atlanta Falcons




Posted by Kevin Moore Categories: NFL,

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ATLANTA FALCONS
2007 RECORD: 4-12

Overview: The Atlanta Falcons are ten seasons removed from there affectionate nick name the “Dirty Birds”.  Since that improbable run to Super Bowl XXXIII, saying the Falcons have had their ups and downs is an understatement.  The franchise’s world came to a halt before the 07-08 season began when their most valuable player and starting quarterback Michael Vick was jailed for dogfighting, leaving the team at a complete loss at that position.  On the other side of the ball, they had a lot of room for improvement. That unit allowed 414 points, highest in the division. And when it seemed that it could not get any worse their “leader,” head coach Bobby Petrino, left the team after their 13th game.  It turns out Bobby Petrino was only joking when he signed that five-year contract with Atlanta.  With all of that going off and on the field, the Falcons finished their ‘07 campaign with a 4-12 record.

Offense: To help with the offense, the Falcons signed veteran TE Marcus Pollard. And the drafting of WR Harry Douglass from Louisville may help to stretch the field.  WR Roddy White had a good preseason as well, but the issue at the position may came from a veteran player, Joe Horn.  The offseason signing of Michael Turner should help bolster their running attack.  He looked very impressive against the Indianapolis Colts, racking up 113 yards on four carries with one for 63 yards.  In the previous seasons their best ground soldier was also their QB.  The one concern about Turner is that he is unproven. The Falcons may learn that a lot of running backs look impressive when they are backing up the San Diego Chargers’ LaDanian Tomlinson.  If Turner does not pan out, draft pick Thomas Brown has looked impressive in the preseason, averaging over five yards a carry.

Defense: On the other side of the ball, the Falcons defense have room for improvement. At the end of last season DeAngelo Hall demanded a trade. The ineptitude of the defense had finally taken its toll on Hall.  With that, he has now joined the Oakland Raiders leaving the Falcons with a big hole to fill in the secondary.  And what a hole that is as the Falcons finished ‘07 ranked 23rd against the pass.  The signing of Von Hutchins should bolster that secondary. Hutchins paired with Chris Houston could prove to be a reliable defense against an air attack.  They were dreadful, 29th, against the run. With a healthy John Abraham and Michael Boley, there is hope for a stingier defense.

Rookies: The Falcons total offense was ranked 23rd last season, while they were 29th in the league for scoring. The ‘08 season looks to help bring some normalcy to the QB situation as the Falcons drafted QB Matt Ryan from Boston College.  At BC, Ryan finished his senior season by breaking the school’s single season passing yards record with 4,507 yards. He is the all-time leader in 300 yard passing games with 12. Those stats helped him to become the ACC Player of the Year, the Manning award, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award.  During the preseason he looked okay, but will need to look more than that during the regular season. In four games he has gone 34-for-59 with 294 yards, two TD and on interception. 

Prediction: The Falcons, come into the ‘08 season with a better secondary and, if healthy, a stronger defensive line. On the offensive side there is great potential at the running back position. Roddy White may be one of the most underrated receivers in the sport. However, they have committed to allowing a rookie starter at QB.  That choice rarely seems to work well in the first season. Some fans may find comfort in the most recent success story with that experiment, Ben Roethlisberger, but the Falcons aren’t the Steelers. I look for this team to go 6-10 in the ‘08 campaign.

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