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.”
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