BLOGCATIONVILLE — Headed for that last blog-cation before the season starts. Needed to get a few things for you all to nimble on.
Not everyone is predicting greatness for the Falcons in 2009.
The folks over at Football Outsiders Almanac 2009, are predicting more doom and gloom. In their eyes, the streak will reach 44 seasons. There will be no playoffs and someone’s pet is probably going to die.
In the publications’ eight page analysis of the Falcons, Rob Weintraub, a local free lancer and TV production worker, points out that over the last 30 years, 17 teams have improved by seven games — including the Falcons and Miami last season — but only the 1998 Jets under Duane Charles Parcells (some folks call him Bill) have improved the next season.
Those other 14 teams, wins decrease by an average for four. That would put the Falcons at 7-9 in 2009.
“Every other team has come back to the pack for various reasons,” Weintraub said. “It’s the NFL, parity rules.”
Part of the Falcons summary reads, “2009: That bar is set much higher, and the team is weighted down by almost certain regression.”
Here’s how they see the Falcons coming back to the pack:
THE DECLINE IN HEALTH: “The more statistical things that we’ve gone through point to injuries. The Falcons were a very healthy team last year. They were fifth-best in terms of our stats: man-games-missed by their starters.
“We found that there is no correlation from year-to-year. Teams that stay healthy for one year don’t necessarily stay healthy the next year. In fact, teams will go backwards in that category.
“If you just have a couple of injuries to a couple of linemen, that could be overcome. Now, if Matt Ryan goes down in the second weak of the season, then the whole thing falls apart. There is a great deal of fortune involved.”
Falcons fans have been there. Check 1999, injuries to Jamal “Jam” Anderson not Jamaal “Sackmaster” Anderson and to Chris Chandler the year after going 14-2 and reaching the Super Bowl. That team went 5-11.
THE SCHEDULE: The Falcons don’t have the AFC West and the NFC Central to kick around. They have the AFC East and NFC East.
“The schedule is significantly more difficult,” Weintraub said.
THE CURSE OF 370: The Outsiders have come up with this “Curse of 370” notion.
Here’s how that works, only one running back – Eric Dickerson – has managed to stare down the Curse.
“Any running back who carries 370 times or more in a single season, there is a significant dropoff or injury the next season,” Weintraub said. “Eric Dickerson is the only guy who’s beat that.”
Micheal Turner had 394 carries for 1,742 yards in 17 games last season.
“You are talking about a very high probability that he’s going to experience a significant (dropoff) this year,” Weintraub said. “Now, it would behoove the Falcons greatly to ease off on his carries. They have Jerious Norwood, whom we love as a back.
“If they can establish a real combination back there, that could definitely offset some of the projected decline in Turner’s numbers.”
The great Dickerson went for 1,808 yards on 390 carries in 1983. He followed that up with 2,105 yards on 379 carries in 1984.
In 1988, Dickerson had 388 carries for 1,659 yards and in 1989 he had 1,311 yards on 314 carries.
Sadly, he was worn out at age 29. By the time he got to the Falcons in 1993, Dickerson could only muster 91 yards on 26 carries.
THE X- FACTOR: The Outsiders don’t know what to do with the addition of tight end Tony Gonzalez.
“We’ve never really had a projection to account for adding a hall of fame tight end, when your biggest need is tight end,” Weintraub said. “It’s obviously a plus, assuming he stays healthy and stays at the level he’s been at.
“He’s also defied all kinds of logic and projections that we’ve done. Our numbers have said they he was going to fall off for the last three years and he hasn’t. That’s a testimony to what a great all-time great player that he is.”
CAN RYAN WIN SHOOT OUTS?: The Outsiders ranks Ryan’s rookie season as the finest of any quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
“They may have to beat teams 35-31 every week,” Weintraub said. “That’s not a sustainable way to go to the playoffs. Now, it can be done, but I think they’ll need a better plan of attack.”
THE DEFENSE: In their regression analysis, more than 100 variables were looked at for each team. They had to consider the ensuing upheaval with replacing five starters on the defense.
“These guys could step up and play lights out,” Weintraub said. “Stephen Nicholas could turn out to be a Pro Bowl linebacker, we’ll see. But the trend over the last 15 years with teams putting (five or more) starters who have played so little into their starting defense, doesn’t bode well.”
CAVEAT: They still have to play the games.
“We projected the Falcons not to be good last year,” Weintraub said. “But (Matt Ryan) significantly out performed the trends. Surely, that can happen again. We certainly acknowledge that there are times when players step up and become superstars.”
IN SUMMATION: A lot has to happen for the Falcons to end that 43-year streak of never posting back-to-back winning seasons.
“Overall, they have a lot of trends, anchoring them and weighing them back to the pack this year,” Weintraub said. “Right now the numbers say they are going to take a step back.”
You can get the Football Outsiders Almanac 2009 off their website: www.footballoutsiders.com and print-on-demand copies from Amazon.com in late July.
D.LED’S UNOFFICIAL/BOOTLEG DEPTH CHART
Before we get to the depth chart, here are three campers to keep an eye on:
Rashad Bobino, Linebacker, 5-11, 230: Was a big thumper at middle linebacker for the Texas Longhorns. Made the Big 12 team three times. Check out his pro day workout.
Ryan Stanchek, Guard, 6-3, 305: Was a four-year starter at West Virginia. Was all-Big East in 2006 and 2008. Played left tackle in college. Got snubbed by the coaches in the all-conference voting last season.
Thomas Johnson, Defensive tackle, 6-2, 305: His name keeps popping up. Has been with three teams since coming out of Middle Tennessee in 2005. He hasn’t been able to stick with Dallas, Houston or the New York Jets. He made three starts with Houston in 2006.
THE DEPTH CHART
QUARTERBACK: Starter — Matt Ryan. Backups – 2. Chris Redman, 3. D.J. Shockley, and 4. John Parker Wilson.
RUNNING BACK: Starters — Michael Turner and Ovie Mughelli. Backups – 1. Jerious Norwood, 2. Jason Snelling, 3. Thomas Brown and 4. Verron Haynes.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. Backups – 1. Harry Douglas, 2. Brian Finneran, 3. Eric Weems, 4. Troy Bergeron, 5. Chandler Williams, 6. Aaron Kelly, 7. Darren Mougey and 8. Bradon Godfrey.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter – Tony Gonzalez. Backups – 1. Ben Hartsock, 2. Justin Peelle, 3. Keith Zinger and 4. Jason Rader.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters – LT Sam Baker, LG Justin Blalock, C Todd McClure, RG Harvey Dahl, RT Tyson Clabo. Backups – Center – 1. Brett Romberg, 2. Ben Wilkerson.
Guards – 1. Jeremy Newberry, 2. Romberg, 3. Wilkerson, 4. Ryan Stanchek, 5. Jose Valez.
Tackles – 1. Will Svitek, 2. Quinn Ojinnaka, 3. Garrent Reynolds, 4. Michael Butterworth.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters – RDE John Abraham, RT Peria Jerry, LT Jonathan Babineaux, LDE Chauncey Davis.
Backups DE – 1. Jamaal Anderson, 2. Kroy Biermann, 3. Lawrence Sidbury, 4. Willie Evans and 5. Maurice Lucas. DT – 1. Jamaal Anderson, 2. Trey Lewis, 3. Jason Jefferson, 4. Thomas Johnson, 5. Vance Walker, 6. Tywain Myles
LINEBACKERS: Starters – WLB Michael Peterson, MLB Curtis Lofton, SLB Stephen Nicholas. Backups: 1. Coy Wire, 2. Edmond Miles, 3. Tony Gilbert, 4. Spencer Adkins, 5. Robert James, and 6. Rashad Bobino.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: LCB – Chris Owens, FS – Erik Coleman, SS – William Moore, RCB – Chris Houston. Backups – CB – 1. Chevis Jackson, 2. Brent Grimes, 3. William Middleton, 4. Von Hutchins, 5. David Irons (injured), 6. Glenn Sharpe, 7. Tony Tiller. S – 1. Thomas DeCoud, 2. Jamaal Fudge, 3. Antoine Harris, 4. Eric Brock.
SPECIAL TEAMS – KR – 1. Jerious Norwood, 2. Thomas Brown. PR – 1. Harry Douglas, 2. Brian Finneran. P – Michael Koenen. PK Jason Elam. LS – Mike Schneck.
The Countdown to Training Camp is winding down!