Although the Falcons held Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams under a 100 yards in the first game, they gave up almost 150 yards to Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and over 100 yards to Fred Taylor in consecutive weeks. The fact that Coach Belichick had the audacity to go for it on 4th down on their own 25 yard line was a pretty big slap to the defense in general, but particularly to the defensive line and run defense. Although the Falcons have faced some good running backs to date, they have the Bears Matt Forte, Marion Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice of the Cowboys, the Saints Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush/Mike Bell, and the powerful Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw Giants running back tandem. The offensive lines will only get tougher as the season progresses as well. The season ending injury to Peria Jerry certainly didn’t help matters. Jonathan Babineaux has struggled so far without the big body next to him to occupy double-teams. Thomas Johnson has over-achieved, but is he an every down defensive tackle? Can Trey Lewis return to his rookie year, pre-injury form?
Possible Fix – Hope that Trey Lewis can return to his old form and reclaim the opening starting position, being a big, athletic defensive tackle that can plug holes and occupy double-teams. Outside of that, possibly moving Jamaal Anderson inside to showcase his run stopping ability, because he surely doesn’t have pass-rushing skills. Dimitroff is not likely to make a move after already giving up a 2nd rounder for Tony Gonzalez and 7th rounder for Tye Hill. Unless the compensatory picks would make up for it, than don’t expect a new defensive tackle in red and black.
Possible Fix – Time to put Kroy Biermann in at the starting defensive end slot opposite from John Abraham. Lawrence Sidbury Jr. should get some serious playing time and rotate with either Biermann or Abraham. Jamaal Anderson may can help at defensive tackle, but his performance doesn’t merit more time at D-End. Chauncey Davis may help at defensive tackle and a backup role for Abraham.
Many blame Coach Van Gorder’s conservative play calling on defense as one of the big problems so far this year, particularly in the Patriots loss, but his lack of aggressive plays may have more to do with the overall pretty weak man-to-man cornerback coverage defense. Brian Williams was picked up off waivers and immediately became the Falcons number one corner. That is a big knock on the corners on the roster. Although Williams has had his moments of excellent play, he’s also had some not so great times as well. Chris Houston has not seemed to progress in his third year out of Arkansas. He did have that big interception against the Panthers, but has also given up catches and yards by the boat load. Is he a true starting level cornerback in the NFL? Dimitroff trading for Tye Hill and picking up Brian Williams off waivers sure wasn’t a vote of confidence. What is going on with Chris Owens and Chevis Jackson? Chevis Jackson played great as the starting nickel back last year, and has been beaten out by Brent Grimes. Chris Owens had some bright moments in preseason and seems to have good cover skills, but is only seeing action on special teams. Brent Grimes plays above his 5’9 frame, but is no Antoine Winfield. Its time to see what the Falcons have with Tye Hill. Can he regain the skill he had as a first round draft pick?
Possible Fix – Keep Brian Williams at starting corner, and time to see what Tye Hill’s got. Maybe work Chris Houston at nickel to see if he can regain his confidence. Hold an open competition of sorts at corner spots, and work in Chris Owens and Chevis Jackson. Time to play the best player and not let draft status cloud any judgment.
Michael Turner has not been the Pro-Bowl running back from a year ago and there are likely many factors to the inept rushing attack, but he shares much of the responsibility with his indecision and failure to hit the hole quickly. The offensive line hasn’t held up their end of the bargains either. Although they have pass blocked well, they have hardly created big holes for Turner to hit in full stride anyway. Teams are likely stacking the box in attempt to the stop the running attack, but teams did that last year and the Falcons still found a way to get it going. Jerious Norwood has been hurt, and Jason Snelling should probably get some more looks after running hard in limited playing time.
Possible Fix – Turner just has to simply find his mojo he had last season when he rushed for almost 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. A source of strength last year, the offensive line should help the backs out by blocking better up front, particularly since all linemen returned from last year’s second leading rushing team. An injury-free Norwood may help add the missing element to the rushing attack by softening up defenses set on closing down the middle. Snelling had been a beast in limited snaps, and should see more.
Vertical Passing Attack
Possible Fix – Time to start taking some big chances downfield and open up the vertical passing playbook, particularly when teams are dead set on stopping the run. Even if the passes don’t always connect, the Falcons can’t limit themselves to short, dump off routes as they did against New England. The hurry-up offense usually works well, and surely can help add some fire in the vertical passing game.
Time to be more confident and more aggressive from top to bottom: offense, defense, and head coaching. Coach Smith’s lack of confidence and faith in the Falcons showed in the Patriots game where he seemed to be playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Take some risks and go for the gold. Time to be more aggressive in the offense and passing attack, particularly with all the weapons abound on the roster. Coach Van Gorder built his reputation on being aggressive and intense while defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, and its time to regain that play-calling. Of all the cornerbacks on the roster, there has to be at least a couple able to cover man-to-man for a few seconds in attempts to blitz more often.
-Play the role of Coach Smith, Coach Mularkey, and Coach Van Gorder
-What’s your plan to “fix” the Falcons?
-Any areas of improvement left off?
-Who should be starting at defensive end? Anderson, Biermann, or Sidbury Jr.?
-What does your starting cornerback lineup look like?
-Should Houston and Anderson be afforded more time or time to move on?
-What’s your fix for the running game?
-How do the Falcons improve their vertical passing attack?