THE BRANCH – The Falcons and Saints were in the same predicament this offseason.
They were making changes in the secondary and were looking for cornerbacks and safeties.
The Saints elected to sign ball-hawking safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Jabari Greer during free agency.
Both moves have paid off for the Saints. Sharper has six interceptions and returned three for touchdowns. Greer, the former University of Tennessee standout, is off to a good start.
With the secondary holding up, New Orleans’ new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has implemented his more
Now, the Saints appear to have a defense to match their high-scoring offense and are the only undefeated team in the NFC at 6-0.
Instead of going the free agency route, the Falcons addressed their secondary needs through the draft.
Second round pick William Moore, who was expected to contend for the starting strong safety spot, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Cornerback Christopher Owens, a third rounder, is playing on special teams. Cornerback William Middleton, a fifth rounder, was released, but has caught on with Jacksonville.
The Falcons elected to pass on talented cornerback Vontae Davis in the first round. He went to Miami on the very next pick. Davis’ off-the-field issues at Illinois certainly were a red flag for the Falcons.
The Falcons added Brian Williams after he was cut by Jacksonville, but he’s out for the season with a knee injury.
So now, the Falcons head into the first game against pass-happy New Orleans, and the secondary is still unsettled.
There doesn’t appear to be any options other than to keep “coaching up” Chris Houston and Brent Grimes.
It would be unfair to throw Owens out there against Brees for his first NFL start.
“I feel comfortable on both sides, so it really doesn’t matter,” Owens said. “I just have to focus more on the field. I figure if you eliminate the mental mistakes, you have a better chance of making plays on the field.”
Former first round pick Tye Hill, acquired from the St. Louis Rams for a 7th round pick, appears to be on deck if the cornerbacks continue to struggle.
HEBERT ACTS A FOOL IN THE PRESS BOX: Hey, Bobby Hebert, no cheering in the press box! This was after the Saints win over the New York Jets.
THE BREW CREW: Before Barry Alvarez turned the University of Wisconsin into a respectable Big Ten program in the 1990s, it was rare to find a NFL player from the state.
With the signing of Aaron Stecker, the Falcons now have three players from Wisconsin. Stecker, the pride of Ashwaubenon High, went on to star at the University of Wisconsin and transferred to Western Illinois after Ron Dayne started to gobble up all of the carries on his way to the Heisman Trophy. Ashwaubenon is a small city right next to Green Bay.
Falcons long-snapper Michael Schneck is from the Milwaukee suburbs and played at Wisconsin. Offensive lineman Jose Valdez is from St. Francis, Wisconsin (a Milwaukee suburb). He’s on the practice squad and played at Arkansas.
OPENING DRIVE CHART: Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s opening game scripts were red-hot last season when the Falcons were 8-0 when they scored on the opening drive of the game.
This season, they have scored two times on the opening drive and are 0-2 in those games.
OPENING DRIVES IN 2008
Detroit – TD – Win
Tampa Bay – Interception — Loss
Kansas City – Punt – Win
Carolina – Punt – Loss
Green Bay – TD – Win
Chicago – FG – Win
Philadelphia – Punt – Loss
Oakland – TD – Win
New Orleans – Punt – Win
Denver – Punt –Loss
Carolina – FG – Win
San Diego – FG – Win
New Orleans – Interception – Loss
Tampa Bay – Punt – Win
Minnesota – TD – Win
St. Louis – FG – Win
OPENING DRIVES IN 2009
Miami – Missed FG – Win
Carolina – Punt – Win
New England – FG – Loss
San Francisco – Punt – Win
Chicago – Punt – Win
Dallas – TD – Loss
Coach Mike Smith is preaching “Team Defense.” But in the scheme of that “Team Defense” everbody has an assignment. He wants everyone to get better at their assignments, but don’t the cornerbacks have the most room for improvement in the “Team Defense” scheme? The unit is likely set to give up it’s third straight 300-yard passing game. Will the Saints even bother to show of their improve rushing attack with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell? Which one of the receivers — Marques Colston, Henderson, Reggie Bush, or Jeremy Shockey — can the Falcons take away from Brees?