Character guys vs. Football Marauders

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) celebrates his touchdown after a fumble-recovery during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. (AP Photo)

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) celebrates his touchdown after a fumble-recovery during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. (AP Photo)

The “Aubibles” section in Pro Football Weekly is a must read.

The quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

One of the Falcons’ issues is how much to weigh “character” into the evaluations in their quest for more “battling” souls. I’ve had trouble coming up with the “proper” name for these type of players, but I think I’ve found my word.

It’s “Marauders!” The Falcons need more of them.

To “maraud” means “to rove and raid in search of plunder” or “to raid or pillage for spoils.”

In this case, the “Football Marauders” would plunder the opposition’s backfield in search of the football and/or the quarterback.

“Someone” around the league believes the Detroit Lions, who were the No. 6 seed behind the Falcons for the NFC playoffs this year, cut some corners along the way in their rebirth and stopped just short of contending that the turnaround will be short-lived in the Jan. 15 issue.

“ When (Lions RB) Jahvid Best was coming out, we would not have drafted him. Concussions were an issue in college. The Lions have taken a lot of chances on guys like him. Mikel Leshoure never played this year. Titus Young was a loose cannon. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh are talented, yes, but if you build your team around ‘issue’ guys like that – it’s not the way I would do it. Maybe it will for them. They’ve come a long way in three years.”

Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert (11) has been sacked 4th-most in the NFL this season. Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert (11) has been sacked 4th-most in the NFL this season. Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

Also, with the departure of offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, the Falcons appear ready to revamp the line.

Here’s another gem from PFW’s ”Aubiles” column that might help to explain why change is needed along the line:

“A lot of offenses have become spread, horizontal passing games with quarterbacks who can spit it quickly and offensive-linemen who can shield and get in the way. It has put more of a premium on athletic offensive linemen. O-linemen have been getting bigger and bigger when they come into the league. I think you’re going to see a trend going the other way — with feet and athletic ability being the most dominant traits sought in (offensive linemen).”

THE BATTLING SOULS STORY (Below)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Since the dust has started to settle from the Falcons’ early playoff exit, perhaps the most troubling thing to come out of the defeat was how the team was dominated physically by the New York Giants.

The Falcons couldn’t “knock back the line of scrimmage” on a couple of short-yardage situations when they had a difficult time blocking the Giants’ strong front seven.

In essence, the Falcons were built as a power football team and now are undergoing a full analysis of their roster to make sure that they can play the style of football that coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff want to play.

“Anytime you’re playing in the National Football League, you need to be able to go toe-to-toe to have the toughness for that extra inch, or extra yards to get the touchdown or whatever it may be to survive in the game,” Dimitroff said. “I think we have some very tough players on this football team. I think we continue to need more tough players with that battling soul. I think that’s very, very important.”

The Falcons, through free agency and the draft, plan to makeover their roster. However, their penchant in the post-Michael Vick era to heavily consider character of their players, makes their quest more difficult.

In his book “War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team,” Michael Holley writes about Belichick, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli and Dimitroff and their thoughts on building that perfect team. Pioli and Dimitroff worked with Belichick in New England.

The Falcons, in their quest for players with high football intelligence and good character, had the most “black dots” on their draft board in the league. Players that the team won’t consider are given black dots. Even the image-conscious owner, Arthur Blank, was concerned with the number of “black dots.”

The Falcons also have “block dots-plus” players on their draft board.

In their quest to stay away from “challenged souls” the Falcons may be missing out on much needed help to become a championship-caliber team.

“We are very particular about the chemistry. With that said, we’ve never talked about, I’ve said this, angelic souls, who are just kind of skipping around doing their thing,” Dimitroff said. “We’re talking about getting guys, who at the core, are team guys. Who at the core have this desire and this passion to win and win every game, win big and win for a long time and [reach] the ultimate goal.

“That’s what we are looking for. I know that’s what Mike Smith is looking for. That’s the type of coach he is. That’s how Arthur Blank is an owner and what his expectations are.”

The Falcons don’t appear ready to change their player-acquisition process.

“There is no question that we scrutinize the personality and the character [of the players] that we bring in, and we’ll continue to do so,” Dimitroff said. “We’re not going to adjust our approach.”

Blank supports this philosophy.

“We have to be careful that we bring in players that add to the chemistry and not only add to the quality of the play,” Blank said. “It doesn’t mean that they can’t make all of the criteria of tough, physical and mean players.”

The Falcons first must evaluate their roster, and Dimitroff said there would be no “sacred cows.”

The Falcons have 17 unrestricted free agents, including linebacker Curtis Lofton, defensive end John Abraham, center Todd McClure, cornerback Brent Grimes, safety Thomas DeCoud, defensive end Kroy Biermann, backup quarterback Chris Redman and special-teams standout Eric Weems.

The salary cap for 2012 has not been set yet. Last season, the cap was $120 million. The Falcons have $100.2 million on their report for 2012 and could clear as much as $26.1 million if they elect to clean house.

“Given the free agents that are available, we could have some significant room,” Dimitroff said. “That’s what we are working on right now by trying to analyze where our moves are going to come [from] and how we are going to clear out some space.”

Dimitroff also said that recent free-agent signees have netted mixed results. He noted cornerback Robinson’s inconsistent play last season and defensive end Ray Edwards’ low sack count of 3.5 last season, when the team was hoping for double-digit sacks.

“There is a foundation that is here,” Dimitroff said. “I’m not suggesting that we are going to blow everything up. This is the idea of scrutinizing everyone along the football operations before we move forward.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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195 comments Add your comment

FalconDawg

January 20th, 2012
5:10 am

Any change will be welcome at this point!

FalconDawg

January 20th, 2012
5:13 am

But I’d love to see some bulk and meanness on the OL.

Chattanooga Chuck

January 20th, 2012
5:23 am

Maybe the Falcons miss out on some talented players, but as a fan, I never want to endure the unpleasantness of 2007 ever again. It’s nice to have players who can be trusted on and off the field.

Mike Jay

January 20th, 2012
5:38 am

If you have a strong locker room full of high character guys lead by a no nonsense coach yo can afford to take on a couple players of ill repute. They will either buy into it or they won’t and you get rid of them. With a solid foundation they will not destroy the team ala The Jets this year, Falcons under Mora, Raiders for the last 40 years, etc.

Paddy

January 20th, 2012
5:54 am

Mike Jay……well said.

I was shocked that our line played below standard last season. Granted we did lose one fine player to free agency. Are the Falcons really that far behind the NFL curve at O-Line? Maybe they are but I think the running game needs some major overhall. Turner is not the answer any longer. I trust TD and CMS to figure it out.

Greg

January 20th, 2012
6:20 am

I can no longer stand to read anything Dimitroff says.

robertussen

January 20th, 2012
6:21 am

i get that mike jay, but it only takes one “t.o.” to kill a team, or at least that teams season

nick fairley | More Than More Insurance

January 20th, 2012
6:23 am

[...] Character guys vs. Football Marauders – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Mikel Leshoure never played this year. Titus Young was a loose cannon. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh are talented, yes, but if you build your team around ‘issue’ guys like that – it’s not the way I would do it. Maybe it will for them. Jan 13, 2012 5:48am [...]

DC Dirty Bird

January 20th, 2012
6:24 am

In football, character only takes you so far. The Patriots have found multiple “questionalble character” players and gotten several years of quality play out of them. Its all about the head coach and the leaders in the locker room. We need some guys who play with a chip on the shoulder on both lines. We need our head coach to demand domination from both lines and execution from the skill players, not smile after losses in order to maintain the Mr. Nice Guy persona.

DC Dirty Bird

January 20th, 2012
6:34 am

I’d rather take the risk of bringing in a “TO” and win than be risk aversed and lose three straight playoff games.

AlanFalcon

January 20th, 2012
6:42 am

Character is everything in sports, business or family. Once you allow those of questional character into your arena you are asking for nothing but problems because their will always be those that want to take up for them instead of making them stand up and become good citizens, thats why we are where we are now compared to years past.

Go Falcons and stand up for you principles. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ernisTbass

January 20th, 2012
6:48 am

Vernon Davis was a malcontent under Singletary in SF, seems to be OK now, sometimes it is the coach/environment and not the player. Be careful with all the black dots, and at the very least include injury prone black dots. Good character doesn’t count for much on IR.

DC Dirty Bird

January 20th, 2012
6:49 am

Character is everything? Michael Jordan is one of the most selfish athletes of all time. He is a known adulterer and never refered to as a “good guy”. He has 6 championship rings, owns the Bobcats, and many basketball fans worship the ground he walks on. How is character everything?

Samuel

January 20th, 2012
6:53 am

I think they should let the players go who just aren’t productive. I can think of five or six on the defensive side of the ball easily.

The Real Falcon

January 20th, 2012
6:57 am

Like the premise but 80% was a rehash of earlier posts. Know it slow there these days.
Oh you forgot the new OC quote: We need to be able to run the ball when people know we’re going to run the ball

waynester

January 20th, 2012
6:58 am

You act as if quality character and toughness are mutually exclusive. There are plenty of men who know how to win and still do right. Our task is to find “Marauders with Halos”…..

detlions

January 20th, 2012
7:21 am

What does Javhid Best and Leshoure have to do with anything? The article discusses marauders versus character guys. Best doesnt have character issues and neither does Leshoure. What do they have to with the point? Best had concussion issues while Leshoure tore his ACL in training camp. They don’t support either side of the argument!

Bird Dawg

January 20th, 2012
7:55 am

Who said it, Nice Guys finish last?

RUDEDAWG

January 20th, 2012
8:06 am

Ledbetter,your an LOSER!

abby normal

January 20th, 2012
8:13 am

Do character and “marauder” have to be mutually exclusive?

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read moreSee more stories on Google: read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

Willy

January 20th, 2012
8:17 am

@detlions: That’s because people who’ve had concussions re stupid, thus they develop character issues.

ANDY

January 20th, 2012
8:18 am

Spagnuolo agrees to joing Saints as DC….

Falcons management really needs to Rise Up!

Agent009

January 20th, 2012
8:19 am

Matt Ryan has to work on staying poised when reading defenses and audibling in and out of plays… not be afraid to test a defense by staying with the original play call. Be a tough as tonka CHARACTER and stretch the field! He exudes way too much frazzledness that disrupts offense on occasion.

Agent009

January 20th, 2012
8:23 am

I wonder how many “black dot” guys are in the hall of fame or on the way there.

tyler

January 20th, 2012
8:28 am

Willy, thanks for starting my day with that comment, funny stuff

playa changes

January 20th, 2012
8:32 am

if the nfl personell keeps moving in the same direction, david stearn might need to be the commish of two pro leagues.

Veedub

January 20th, 2012
8:33 am

@AlanFalcon. Character is everything, BUT, having character does not mean.. you don’t speak out; you don’t have unquestioned passion for the game; You have to to have some players that go against the grain a bit to even out your identity, to push players to play harder. T.O. is a great EXAMPLE.. although he is a bit of a cancer, there is no one IMO, that works harder at their craft and wants to win more than this guy does. All the BS (media comments) aside, guys like this make the average guys on your team perform better and work harder. And we dont have anyone like that on our team, noone.. Roddy White had taken on that role for a while but its not his true identity.. What ya think??

nick fairley | More Than More Insurance

January 20th, 2012
8:37 am

[...] Character guys vs. Football Marauders – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Mikel Leshoure never played this year. Titus Young was a loose cannon. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh are talented, yes, but if you build your team around ‘issue’ guys like that – it’s not the way I would do it. Maybe it will for them. Jan 13, 2012 8:00pm [...]

Ex-Season Ticket Holder

January 20th, 2012
8:45 am

NFL players of good character (code for nice guys) can only take you so far. I hate to say this but the Falcons need some bad a$$es on their team, guys who think and play like they are the meanest dudes on the block.

Matt Ryan is a player of good character and a good NFL QB. However, when he face a team with a few bad a$$ players, Matt plays as though he is afraid. The Falcons need a QB who will talk $hit, then go on the field and back it up!! This good character QB will always play not to lose a game instead of playing to win.

With the current philosophy of the Falcons front office, this team will always be mediocre to good, but never great.

GoldJacket

January 20th, 2012
8:58 am

Find a RG (maybe some capable OL backups) and a DT who can collapse the pocket, and we won’t be having this discussion

[...] Character guys vs. Football Marauders – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Mikel Leshoure never played this year. Titus Young was a loose cannon. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh are talented, yes, but if you build your team around ‘issue’ guys like that – it’s not the way I would do it. Maybe it will for them. Jan 13, 2012 8:00pm [...]

Birdthethird

January 20th, 2012
9:05 am

I remember my high school coach always saying we need some to play some “hard nose” football. Mean, get at it, relentless but disciplined. Falcons need to go hard nose especially on defense. The Steelers, Ravens, even today’s Lions are known for running through you. James Harrison is willing to take a penalty or two but he’s no Dunta Robinson. He’s doing it to make a point and also trying to gain a mental edge. He’s a smart football player who wants you to know he’s coming every play and he aint taking it light on you. That play evokes fear from players and if they aren’t made of something they will crumble. We need more hard nose football players on this team!.

Mikefalcon63

January 20th, 2012
9:08 am

Who do the Patriots, 49ers, Packers, and Aints have that fit the mold of low character. The Giants have a few low character guy, but nothing like a Suh. The Ravens have a killer on their team, so we know they don’t value character.

My point is I don’t think we have any less character guys than other teams who made it further than the falcons in the playoffs. You could put Babs in the category for killing a dog and buying pot. But that did not exactly make him an all pro this past season. Suh and Farley are bad boys on the field, yet I think their records are clean off the field. Let’s say the falcons are looking at 2 players on their ranked draft board. One is a fairly productive upstanding free safety with high football IQ, and the other is a guard who holds the record for pancake blocks in NCAA. Problem is the guard also has many 15 yard penalties. Who do you take? Which is going to hender your team more? Both positions are needed and the guard would create holes by himself, while the safety will probably take a year or 2 to understand pro offenses. But he is not going to cost you games with stupid penalties.

tyger

January 20th, 2012
9:18 am

Don’t let the embedded media snowball us…

– Matt Ryan is the issue….
- The OL/coaches are scape goats…
- Nobody can get 4th+1 against these defenses…
- That’s why they punt…

- Look at the play they called…
- Matt didn’t really even try and get up in there…
- He just leaned and rolled over…
- He did’nt dive, churn, no second effort, nothing…
- A deer in the headlights, 3 times consecutive…

Luckovich cartoon “They call him Matty Ice b/c he freezes in the playoffs…”

detlions

January 20th, 2012
9:19 am

@Willy..lol! Thanks for clarifying!

Babalouie

January 20th, 2012
9:21 am

If character is everything, then run the phony saint Richt out of Athens. They don’t call Richt the Sleazemeister for nothing.

bryan jackson

January 20th, 2012
9:24 am

character dosent win championships it just accepts losing them!!

Todd A.

January 20th, 2012
9:26 am

Man, Spags to the Saints? They just continue to “one up” us.

PMC

January 20th, 2012
9:34 am

Look there’s a middle ground between the Atlanta Boys Choir (AKA: Falcons) and the awful NY Jets locker room.

This team committed a lot of penalties this year too so even though the chemistry may have been nice, the level of physical play was not ever there even once this year.

They do need some marauders, especially in the marauding positions DE and LB. Someone has to be James Harrison, someone has to be Ray Lewis. This team ISN’T Physically tough.

I don’t give two craps if my CB is beat you up physical. All I want my CB to do is tackle well, not lose games for me with penalties and missed plays (Dunta)

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 20th, 2012
9:37 am

PMC — Thanks for dropping by as always. I think William Moore has a chance to a Marauder. It will be interesting to see how Nolan uses him. Just let him go and blow up stuff.

PMC

January 20th, 2012
9:39 am

We don’t need to concern ourselves with the Saints right now. They coach better, they draft better, they have better players, they have won a super bowl, and they are crushing the Falcons head to head even since Smitty got here.

We are square one again. This is a rebuilding team. Right now we have to figure out how to get one stinking yard and score points on offense. We’ll worry about other teams later.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 20th, 2012
9:39 am

tyger — I concur that you have to be able to get that yard. The coaches have been held accountable. Now, it’s on to the players.

TD has no clue!

January 20th, 2012
9:40 am

I see now. Thats why we drafted P. Jerry over Clay Matthews. Clay is a bad boy. TD wont draft anyone who is nasty on the field. He dont want them to hit anyone too hard. TD has no clue.

PMC

January 20th, 2012
9:40 am

Hey D, Indeed sir. William Moore can be an answer, I just wonder if he can stay healthy enough to be the impact player he’s shown he can be.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 20th, 2012
9:42 am

Mikefalcon63 – Marauder doesn’t necessarily equal low character. In a perfect world, you’d want high character guys who like to rip the quarterback’s head off. I’m just sayin . . .

TD has no clue!

January 20th, 2012
9:43 am

Why doesnt TD put a black dot on all the injury prone players coming out of college? You know guys like W.Moore, P. Jerry, etc. Because TD has no clue.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 20th, 2012
9:43 am

Agent009 – Ummm, plenty. Not required that you be a Saint in this game.

Chop Buster

January 20th, 2012
9:44 am

I’ve been saying this from day one…Smitty doesn’t have the mammoth OL he needs to run a power rushing attack. The guys we have try and act tough, but they’re soft and don’t play with the mean streak we once had. This line is really designed for he zone blocking scheme–which is a big difference from power blocking/rushing OL. Maybe we should just go back to zone blocking and keeping the opponent on the ground. It worked very well during the Mora era.

1eyedJack

January 20th, 2012
9:44 am

Hey, let’s change our name to the RAIDERS!