Do the Falcons Need to Add Offense?

Should Fans Expect Many Offensive Moves?

Is Jenkins a Legit #2 WR? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

While the Atlanta Falcons defense received much of the criticism in 2009, the offense shouldn’t have escaped the malignment either. A beacon of bright hope in 2008, the Falcons offense included the 2nd leading rushing offense, Pro Bowler running back Michael Turner, Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White, and Offensive Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan. Adding arguably the best tight end to ever play the game assumed that the offense would be among the most thrilling to watch in 2009. A huge number of injuries throughout the season coupled with a sophomore QB decrease led to the Falcons dropping to the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of offense.

The offensive players weren’t the only ones to take a step back in the ‘09 campaign. Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey had a rough year as well. At times, the offense looked completely out of sync and if the running game couldn’t get on track, then the offense was done. Mularkey got out-schemed several times throughout the season and the passing game, in particular, became stale and uninspiring (how many play-action roll outs with 2 options and a throw away did we see?). Many fans and the media may continue to focus on the defense, rightly so, but the offense might need some work as well.

A list of the offensive positions in alphabetical order (special thanks to ProFootballFocus.com for stats, the premiere stats website):

Offensive Line

A wide chasm exists with some fans on the need of the offensive line going into the 2010 season. Many believe that Matt Ryan never really had enough time to get settled in the pocket with constant pressure from the opposing defense. The O-Line got beat on a regular basis, especially the Tackles, and the fact that they were seemingly dominant in 2008 likely had more to do with the really weak schedule than it did with the Birds boys up front. Sam Baker can’t stay healthy, Justin Blalock has issues with pass protection, McClure is on the verge of retirement, Dahl is a big liability in pass game and goes overboard, and Clabo had a really bad setback. Their argument goes that there is a lack of true top-line talent and the foundation needs some serious work, as in first round draft picks.

The opposite argument goes that Matt Ryan was in the top percentage of quarterbacks with the least amount of sacks and they will only get better with more tutelage under Coach Boudreau and a few tweaks here and there. If Baker can stay healthy he’s a legit NFL Tackle, Blalock and Dahl are road-graders that can continue their improvement in the pass, McClure still has some juice with Brett Romberg ready to take over if need be, and Clabo can regain his form back. Add to the fact that the Falcons are developing their own pick in Garrett Reynolds ready to take over at right tackle in the near future and maybe Will Svitek can compete for a spot. It will be interesting to see what Dimitroff does in regards to Dahl and Clabo, but a good bet would be that the two will be Falcons for another year since they’ll be restricted free agents.

Comprehensive Offensive Tackle Rankings

Offensive Guard Rankings

Offensive Center Rankings

Quarterback

This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. The Falcons have one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Matt Ryan. Yes, he did have a slight setback in his sophomore campaign, but he only looks to get better and better as he progresses through his years. If nothing else, more weapons and a superb work ethic will bring him along just fine. The Birds decided to go with John Parker Wilson as the developmental QB over DJ Shockley. Even though Chris Redman is a unrestricted free agent, it would be pretty shocking to not see him brought back as the backup quarterback after playing very well in Ryan’s absence. Doubtful the front office would bring in another veteran QB who doesn’t have the history with the Falcons or know the offense like Redman does.

Comprehensive QB Rankings

Running Back

Time to Draft Norwood's Replacement? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Yet another very intriguing position to debate. Michael Turner obviously is the feature back and is only one year removed from being the second leading rusher in the league. After starting slow, Turner seemed to get his mojo back in mid-season when he was running with authority and power, going well over 100+ yards in the first half against Carolina before he was injured. It did prove the rule emphatically that the NFL is, at least, a two back league with the pounding they take. Many believed that Norwood would be the one to have the breakout, but it was none other than Jason Snelling. The big bruising fullback turned tailback was a main reason that the Falcons broke the ridiculous back-to-back Curse. Although Snelling is not the speed back to complement Turner’s bruising style, he has great agility for a big man, and is extremely productive in the passing game. Seriously doubt that Snelling will not be locked up for a long while in the Falcons running back stable. Jerious Norwood is a different story altogether, though. His speed, elusiveness, and game-breaking ability is unquestioned, but production can’t be earned on injured reserve. Was that Mularkey’s fault in not game planning for Norwood, the way that Sean Payton strategizes for Reggie Bush? Norwood is due to become a restricted free agent and the front office is reportedly interested in bringing him back, but with a plethora of draft picks, Dimitroff could be selecting his own speed back to develop. At fullback, Ovie Mughelli is still under contract for a couple more years and is an invaluable asset in the running attack.

Comprehensive Running Back Ranking

Tight End

Tony Gonzalez is definitely coming back for at least one more year, but will this be his last one? Thomas Dimitroff, the front office, and the coaching staff preached “process” from day one and still do, but the trade for arguably the best tight end to play the game certainly accelerated the process. Even the fact that Gonzalez considered retiring this year should lead Dimitroff to want to find his TE of the future and learn from the best in the business. Justin Peele proved to be a vital part of the passing and running game at tight end, but he’s over 30 years of age as well. Keith Zinger has made some progress as a receiving threat, but doesn’t project as more than a backup or situational TE, at least not at this point. Will be surprising if Dimitroff doesn’t snag a tight end in the draft.

Comprehensive Tight End Rankings

Wide Receiver

Perhaps no bigger change has occurred to any other position than the wide receiving corps. Once thought to be one of the Falcons biggest strengths, the group of wideouts as a whole proved to be one of the thinnest on the the team this year. At one point the Falcon boasted Pro Bowler Roddy White, a seemingly resurgent Michael Jenkins, a breakout rookie in Harry Douglas, promising Laurent Robinson, and 3rd down machine Brian Finneran. Thought to be one of the deepest in the NFL, Dimitroff traded Robinson to the St. Louis Rams to move up in a later round, although Robinson did end up hurt again through the year. But the early injury to Harry Douglas in training camp exposed how truly vulnerable the receiving corps was. Roddy White was of course his normal Pro Bowl strength, but that was where the dominance stopped.

Michael Jenkins went back to the issues that have plagued him as a Falcon, dropping easily catchable balls in enormous situations and failing to establish himself as a true complement to Roddy White, even after adding All-World Tight End Gonzalez to the fold. Jenkins is a great blocker and can come up some big plays from time to time, but overall doesn’t appear to be a legit number two receiver, at least not without a big threat in the slot. Many fans also forget that Jenkins was a late first round draft pick as well. Although Jenkins may not be a number two receiver, he does add potency to the overall receiving corps. The same can’t be said of the other receivers. The Falcons tried a number of undrafted free agent receivers and found no gems out of that mix. After Douglas went down, they tried older veterans Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker after finally settling on Booker. The 33 year old receiver added virtually nothing to the passing attack. Brian Finneran adds value as a wideout, but is also 33 years old and extremely injury prone. Eric Weems was the nice surprise of training camp, showing nice speed in space as a kick returner, and the hope was that it would translate in the passing game. Outside of a couple of catches, Weems was basically non-existent in the aerial arsenal. Much of the criticism may be displaced since Offensive Coordinator Mularkey might bear much of the blame, but the lack of talent at wide receiver is obvious.

Comprehensive Wide Reciever Rankings

Time to Rank

Use the stats, arguments above, and your own of course to rank which offensive needs are the highest and which are the lowest. My weak attempt:

1) Wide Receiver - Possibly a departure from many fans, but the aerial arsenal just isn’t there at wide receiver. Roddy White is obviously one of the faces of the franchise, a two-time Pro Bowler, and luckily a Falcon pretty much for life. That’s where the threat stops. Michael Jenkins had one touchdown last year and has proven that he simply isn’t on the level as a legitimate number two receiver in the NFL. He drops too many easily catchable balls in huge spots (New Orleans twice, New York Giants among many others) and should be dominating with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez stretching the field. He definitely can be an excellent asset to the Falcons receiving corps, but likely not as a number two. Harry Douglas is on schedule, but coming back from a major knee injury. Marty Booker showed why he was an available free agent, Brian Finneran is 33 and has had knee injuries in the last 3 out of 4 years, and Eric Weems proved little in the passing attack. Perhaps much of Mularkey’s fault, but compared to other teams, the receivers need a serious upgrade. Would a draft pick and a free agent addition be out of the question? Hopefully no later than the fourth round to upgrade the receiving corps. Much value exists in the later rounds: Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Johnny Knox, and Louis Murphy were all drafted in the fourth round or later.

2) Offensive Line - Many will likely put this one at the top, but this one almost gets a deference for at least another year. After shocking the NFL in 2008, the O-Line took a slight step back in 2009, but they deserve a third year as a whole unit to prove 2008 was no fluke. Sam Baker has been solid when healthy and should get another year to prove he’s a left tackle, before moving over to the right. Blalock is a core member of the line and should be for awhile. McClure will probably be retiring soon, but Brett Romberg showed he can play well in a spot. Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo are the most intriguing since they’re both restricted free agents this year. Barring a team giving up high draft picks, Clabo and Dahl will probably be Falcons for another year. This will give Dimitroff time to see what they have in Garrett Reynolds and Will Svitek, while also drafting another one of “their guys” in the 3rd or 4th round. Could also add some depth via free agency. Next year Dimitroff won’t have the same luxury as he’s being afforded this year.

Will TD Draft Gonzo's Replacement? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

3) Tight End - Hard to put this one above running back, but the tight end position is much more vulnerable than the running back corps. Tony Gonzalez is definitely coming back for one more year, but anything beyond that will be on borrowed time since he even considered retirement after this season. Unlike running backs, there is no front line depth at tight end. Peele possibly could be a stop-gap, but he’s over 30 years old himself. Zinger adds good depth, but little more. It would be a travesty to not draft a tight end and let them learn from the greatest tight end of all time, at least for a year. There’s good value in this draft. Keep an eye on Colin Peek from Alabama as a steal for somebody, possibly the Falcons. The Birds could easily use one of their fourth round or fifth round picks (likely to have two in each due to compensatory picks).

4) Running Backs - Michael Turner as the feature back, one year removed from the Pro Bowl and is one of the faces of the franchise. Jason Snelling has shown that he is capable of filling in as a good complement and backup to Turner and should be a part of the Falcons running game for a long time. Dimitroff and Co. reportedly want to bring back Snelling and Norwood and he has more leverage since both are restricted free agents, basically delaying the decision and need to draft one for another year. TD may also elect to draft a speed back to develop with his plethora of draft picks (likely 8 total) and has shown a knack for mining talent later in the draft, especially since they carry 5 RB’s on the active roster (4 RB, 1 FB).

5) Quarterback - Seriously doubt that QB will even be close to on the radar. They have their franchise QB in Ryan, likely long term backup in Redman, and their developmental QB in John Parker Wilson. Also still have DJ Shockley on the practice squad. Pay close attention to the Redman signing.

Your Turn

Discuss, analyze, and rank the positions according to need on the offensive side of the ball. How wrong am I in terms of my rankings? Is offensive line the sure-fire biggest need of all positions? Are the receivers better off than mentioned above?

Remember to give YOUR opinion of what you think SHOULD happen, not necessarily what will happen.

Enjoy…………. and GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!

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166 comments Add your comment

ATLJBO

February 15th, 2010
11:05 pm

SeminoleWarrior

February 15th, 2010
11:08 pm

D3, you did it again!! And as I did with the defensive edition, I will break this down with great care. I will say this though. The offense is farther along in the PROCESS than the defense is…but both units will be improved in 2010.

Check back tomorrow my friends to see where the TeePee goes with this one. Believe it or not, my Philadelphia Eagles comparison could very well apply again here offensively. Stay tuned…see you all on the other side.

Mike J

February 15th, 2010
11:12 pm

Very nice comprehensive post D3! I agree completely…another receiver is a must. Hopefully we can have White, HD comes back strong and cements himself as a great #2, we can draft or sign a solid 3, and we have Finn & Jenks locked up to fill out the rest. I liked Weems in the slot, but think I prefer him kick returning, though I am not even sold on that yet. He had some great returns last year, but seems to run so hard and straight that he just runs into oncoming defenders.

I think some oline depth is in order next. Then definitely a TE to develop under TG (I am hoping we have him for 2 more years). Then hopefully a late round gem speedy back.

I am confident our offense will be much better next year. The coaching staff needs to open it up and turn Matty loose. GO FALCONS!

ATLJBO

February 16th, 2010
12:10 am

O-Line

I think we will tender Dahl and Clabo regardless…. It will only cost us $1.809 million (2nd round tender) for each player…. I really think Garrett Reynolds can play RT in the NFL… I dont know if he is ready yet but he will have a chance to compete with Clabo… I can also see us adding a guard like John Jerry…I honestly think Sam Baker and Justin Blalock will be alright on the left side… Todd McClure is by far the most under-rated Center in the league… I don’t see Center as a big need with Brett Romberg as the backup…. I’m not saying that we should just forget about the center position… I’m just saying that its not a big need… McClure is 32 years old with zero major injuries….. If Kevin Mawae is playing at a high level at 39 years old…I can see McClure playing at a high level for at least 2 more years (has 2 more years left on his contract). I can see us taking a Center in the later rounds…

…………………………..
Running Back

I don’t think RB is a major need also…… Michael Turner is coming back healthy, Snelling has shown the ability to play good as a backup, Norwood is a good RB when healthy, and Antone Smith is a dark horse (yall are going to love this guy during OTA’s and Training camp)…… Norwood is our biggest question mark…. I cant see us letting him go because it will only cost us $1.176 million to tender him… Norwood is electric with the ball in his hands as an rb, wr, or as a return guy… The guy has to stay healthy tho…. Snelling is back regardless rather its as a tendered player of contract extension.… Antone Smith is the guy I cant wait to see during OTA’s…. The guy is fast, explosive, shifty, strong, and finishes every run…. He is also a good receiver in the back field…. I saw the guy play at Florida State… They really miss used this guy… He blamed Florida State for his draft status (undrafted)…. If the guy can improve his blocking… He could be an Ahmad Bradshaw type change of pace RB…

Antone Smith Proday
Height: 5076
Weight: 191
40 Yrd Dash: 4.33
20 Yrd Dash: 2.51
10 Yrd Dash: 1.48
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 31
Vertical Jump: 32
Broad Jump: 10′02″
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.32
3-Cone Drill: 6.90

Antone Smith highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fbFCU4zHiY
…………………………………………………….

WR and TE

I think we will draft a WR and TE…. I feel like Roddy White and Harry Douglas are really talented WR’s…. I feel like the rest of our WR’s are 3rd,4th and 5th string WR’s… Michael Jenkins is the biggest headache on this team….The guy will do just enough to get by (good blocker and a big catch here and there)…. Like Peter King said “Michael Jenkins would have been the Goat of the Week was it not for Hank Poteat tackling Calvin Johnson in the end zone in Detroit. Jenkins dropped a perfect pass in the end zone from Matt Ryan that likely would have won the game for Atlanta at the Giants” …Peter King also said he believes that we will get another #2 WR in a 790 the zone interview… The guy is just not the #2 WR we need…. We will draft a WR in the mid rounds… I can also see us drafting a TE in the mid-late rounds…. This is where I really love the Tony Gonzalez acquisition…. We all know that Gonzo gives us a lot on and off the field but a young talented TE learning from the best to ever play the position for a year or 2…. That’s priceless… Look at Aaron Rogers and Brett Favre… Look at Jerry Rice and TO… A lucky rookie TE will get to learn from Tony Gonzalez.

My rankings are exactly like D3’s

Wide Receiver
Offensive Line
Tight End
Running Backs
Quarterback

Ed

February 16th, 2010
1:21 am

Another stellar blog D3 and most appreciated. I think our offense needs more work than most. On the OL, if any of these are available, Russell Okung, Bruce Campbell, Anthony Davis, Brian Bulaga, and Trent Williams, we must take one unless there is another surprise player that has also dropped. Our OL is not up to the quality it should be, and Sam Baker has proven to be injury prone as he was also injured his last year at SC . WR, if Dez Bryant is available, draft him. As a pure weakness, WR is our worst position bar none. We only have White we can count on up to this point. If Douglas makes it back from injury, he’s the only other one worth keeping. RB, CJ Spiller is going to be a playmaker and is a must draft also. Think Chris Johnson with more versatility. A tight end comes in the later rounds or through free agency. The Falcons definitely don’t take Gresham in the first round. I personally think TG would stay for two more years if we go deep in the playoffs. I say “would” because I don’t think there will be a 2011 season, at least not a full one.

The Real Falcon

February 16th, 2010
8:23 am

O-Line, heir apparent at TE, experienced backup QB.

The Real Falcon

February 16th, 2010
8:28 am

Remind me again how many games have Redman, Wilson and DJ started in this league in the regular season? Not addressing this is a big mistake!

WR

February 16th, 2010
8:32 am

D3, keep bringing it, if no one else is, your having a great offseason. As for the offense, some say Ryan needed more time which points the finger at the O-line, some say he needs more weapons, which points the finger at the skill positions, and some say the scheme was horrible, thats plain on Murlarkey. I believe its more a combination of the scheme and the weapons then it is the O-line. As you mentioned outside of Gonzo and White the offense was limited, especially when teams stacked the box against the run. At the same time its not like the O-line has any probowl caliber players, but I don’t think they have reached there maximum potential. It was rare to see the line get beat against another team’s front four or three, but what we did see is a hell of alot of blitzes and when you don’t have adequate weapons thats what teams do. Add a WR like Shipley who haves the knack for finding holes in a defense and that changes how teams blitz you. Perfect example is the Colts, everyone was afraid to blitz Manning, so most didn’t do it often, not because Manning is so good, but he was surrounded by weapons which had to be accounted for. How did the Saints beat them, with there front 4, what team did the Saints struggle with the most even though they played them twice, the Falcons. Why, because the Falcons OL held their own fairly well against an opponents front four, opponents that beat the Falcons O played alot of man coverage and doubled Gonzo while stacking the box, thus eliminating the passing game and slowing down the running game. If teams just so happened not to have a good corner to single cover White without safety help(the Saints), the Falcons torched them, see also the Niners. Without weapons Ryan who many say took a step back, tried often to force the ball to Gonzo even when there was definitely nothing there, not because he was under pressure but because QBs have a clock in there head that says its time to get rid of the ball, force it in or throw it away, kind of sounds like what Ryan had to do all season to me. Dallas has one of the biggest, strongest, and best OL in the league, put that O-Line in place of the Falcons and ask yourself do the Falcons really improve much. Okay Ryan now has more time to throw, but White is doubled, Gonzo is doubled, you have Jenkins one on one but you can’t trust him to even make a play on the ball, so whats the option, force it in or throw it away, sound familiar.

The Real Falcon

February 16th, 2010
8:34 am

Why would we draft another WR highly when it takes 2-3 years for them to produce? Our O-Line is not athletic and it showed against teams like Dallas, teams with a fast group of players. No one on the team right now has shown that ability. While our schedule in 2009 was a tough one after going 9-7 we will still have another tough one in 2010. We need to get prepared and not be reactive.

The Real Falcon

February 16th, 2010
8:43 am

OL pretty good?
10 more sacks in 2009 vs 2008.
3336 yds in 2009 vs. 3571 in 2009
6.5 yd/att in 2008 vs. 7.9 in 2009
It goes on. How much better would we have been with a better OL? One that saw the box full in 2008 and still gave us a great running game? Ignore this at our own peril.

DDawgDavis

February 16th, 2010
8:53 am

As many weapons as we have, it would be nice to have a Anquan Boldin-esque WR. Harry Douglas gives us the Wes Welker type WR needed, but it would be a luxury to get that grinder. Or make Roddy the grinder and get a Brandon Marshall (oh no I said it).

OL is an area that would be nice to add depth to. Baker- expierment is not going so well, so I wouldn’t be upset if the Falcons went with Bulaga out of Iowa or Ducasses out of UMass. Hate to see that first round money used twice one position, but the CB depth in this draft is too hard not to take advantage of.

Basically, FA a #2 WR just to add that last piece and draft a OL. This could be a huge offseason for the Falcons because we have the pieces now and with the addition of a few smart players we could be playoff bound for quite a while.

mountain_jim

February 16th, 2010
9:11 am

Mularkey needs to work on his passing offense and include no-huddle more.

Grey

February 16th, 2010
9:23 am

Great post, as usual, but disagree with your Clabo/Dahl thoughts as I’m not sure they really deserve another year – getting a new right tackle should be priority #1. Not only is Dahl a huge liability in pass protection (which you noted), I’ve also never thought the right side was all that solid in the run game either. The stats seem to bear this out too (from ESPN.com).

For off tackle plays, Yards per Carry for Turner/Snelling/Norwood were 1.25 higher to the left in 2008 (5.5 vs 4.2) and 0.5 higher in 2009 (4.13 vs 3.59). Including sweeps, the differences aren’t so big, but they’re still more than a little better to the left than the right – 0.2 yards higher in both years.

Turner, especially, seems to be much better running left. His YPC off-tackle were 1.79 yards better in 2008 (5.63 vs 3.84) and 1.73 in 2009 (4.82 vs 3.09) to the left. Including sweeps, the difference is still huge .67 in 2008 (5.38 vs 4.71) and 1.49 in 2009 (6.37 vs 4.88). Full stats are below.

Not sure if anyone else picked up on this, but Mularkey’s preference to run left seemed more pronounced in 2008, and getting away from that early seemed to be part of Turner’s struggles. Don’t have the stats, but I remember constantly being frustrated early in the year how often Turner got stacked up trying to run behind Dahl & Clabo. Only in the middle of the season did it seem like they got back to running left, and that was when Turner finally “picked it up.”

Replacng Dahl with a real tackle and moving him to guard (ideally bu getting a left tackle and moving Baker to the right) would hopefully clear up both the pass & run problems and make a bigger difference to the offense than any other single change the Falcons can make.

Turner 2008
left side: 84 carries, 473 yds – 5.63 per(128/688 incl sweeps – 5.38 per)
right side: 44 carries, 169 yds – 3.84 per (89/419 incl sweeps – 4.71 per)

Turner 2009
left side: 45 carries, 217 yds – 4.82 per (65/414 incl sweeps – 6.37 per)
right side: 32 carries, 99 yds – 3.09 per (51/249 incl sweeps – 4.88 per)

All backs 2008
left side: 94 carries, 517 yds – 5.5 per (182/947 incl sweeps – 5.2 per)
right side: 56 carries, 236 yds – 4.2 per (146/736 incl sweeps – 5.0 per)

All backs 2009
left side: 96 carries, 396 yds – 4.1 per (145/708 incl sweeps – 4.9 per)
right side: 69 carries, 248 yds – 3.6 per (115/544 incl sweeps – 4.7 per)

JeanE

February 16th, 2010
10:10 am

I agree with you, for the most part.I am so glad they resigned Finn, he is a big value for the small dollar amount he makes: a mentor, valuable special teams player and as you said, automatic 3rd down conversion man! I think we’re stuck with Mr. 50/50 a.k.a. Jenkins…I feel confident with Harry D. coming back that this receiver unit is fine. I agree, we need to think about Tight end of the future but next year we are good. I think/hope Mr. Nasty, Harvey Dahl will be back and he & Claybo play well together. We need to concentrate on our defense and Mr. Mularkey needs to pull his head out of your know where and design some better offensive game plans. I would not mind a free agent corner but they are few & far between. Not sure whether it’s worth it to break the bank on Peppers, I previously thought so but have changed my mind. Let’s develop the Beerman and Sidbury, we spent a fortune on Abe and he was the invisible man last year. I also believe we should retain Redman. go birds!

TDWII

February 16th, 2010
10:30 am

Agree completely about the need at WR. Jenkins is an anchor to this offense. To the point where I say, why not our 1st rounder? Everyone looks to balance out the level of proficiency of both offensive and defensive units. However, a better, more efficient and explosive offense can be a defenses best friend. It can set the tone for a game (or a season). We are closer to having an elite offense than an elite defense. However, with Jenkins at #2 WR, that won’t happen.

I say go WR as early ad the draft will let you.

thunderbull56

February 16th, 2010
11:07 am

Norwood needs to electrify some other teams hurt list.Imperative that your left tackle stays on the field.Trade the greatest TE ever for draft picks.Sucker somebody into taking Jenkins for a 3rd or 4th round pick.A breakaway runner/slot reciever type would be nice.Here’s hoping TD finds the next Bo Jackson from unknown multidirectional U.

Ken Strickland

February 16th, 2010
11:39 am

Aside from injuries, most of our OFF problems can be laid at the feet of OC MMularkey, and here’s why I say that:

(1) His play calling was so predictable, and we very seldom ran outside the tackles. It was also just downright stupid for us to have one of the NFL’s fastest power RB’s in MTurner, and one of the fastest and best openfield RB’s period in JNorwood, and not run or pass to them outside. Not running inside so much might have helped our RB’s avoid so many injuries, especially to JNorwood.

(2) He limits the involvement of his RB’s in the passing OFF, especially his starting RB’s. Only 12 total passes were thrown to our starting RB’s, and only 19 to #1 backup JNorwood. By comparison, the Saints and their #1 ranked OFF threw 4 times more passes(49)to their starting RB’s, and a total of 74 to their backup RB’s.

If your OFF doesn’t attack the DEF on the outside, they will adjust and pack it inside. Allowing the DEF to keep everything inside makes it much harder for our OL to run and pass block, which we all witnessed this past season. Our rushing and passing OFF can be much improved just by getting OC MMurlarkey to expand his play calling and incorporate more swing and screen passes and runs outside the tackles.

Having said that, we do need to upgrade and/or add depth at WR, RB, TE and OL. The only starting position I feel we definitely need to upgrade is the #2 WR slot, and the return of a healthy HDouglas might solve that problem.

What happened last season was nothing more than a repeat of what happened after our successful 04 season. Our incompetent OC GKnapp called running plays 80% of the time on 1st and 2nd downs, and also refused to use swing or screen passes. DEF Coordinators studied our OFF tendencies and made adjustments, while GKnapp made none going into the 05 season. As a result, our OL started having trouble run and pass blocking against DEF’s that were stacking the box.

riggo

February 16th, 2010
12:34 pm

WR should be #1 on offense, 1legit receiver in Roddy everyone else is Old, Hurt or Can’t Catch

Coop

February 16th, 2010
1:15 pm

D3 – Great blog. Clearly setting the standard brother!

As for needs, I’m in the camp of OL, OL, OL. Draft an OT in the 1st (assuming Buluga is available( and an OC in the 4th (I like the BC kid that played with Ryan his senior year). I’ll accept taking a shot on WR but not before the 4th or 5th. I think the Colstons, Collies, Austins, etc. show that WR is the most OVERRATED position in football. Hell, Jenks was a 1st rounder. Don’t waste a 1st rounder on a guy you hope is your #2 WR… C’mon Man!

As for RB, I’ve been a big fan of Norwood, but I admit, he’s not trustworthy. However, you don’t spend a #1 on your #2 RB.

Sign Redman as the backup and you’re set at QB. Look for a TE late, but expect to draft one high next year. So unless you find a steal, you can gamble and let it go. Still too much to address on D to use all your picks on O.

1. OT
3. OLB
4. OC
4. CB
5. DT
5. WR
6. RB
7. K

mmgtfan

February 16th, 2010
1:58 pm

2 letters and 1 word…………

C.J. SPILLER!!!!!

Darrick

February 16th, 2010
2:02 pm

Here it comes …If Vick becomes available the Falcons should pick him up, why? Because if anything should happen with Ryan we have a QB who is better to lead the team and have a better chance of winning with than Chris Redman.

Let Jenkins go already, he has shown he knows how to “wow” us in every way, great catch and then a drop of a easily catchable ball.

Finnerman is signed already but my gosh look to upgrade the receiving corps all together.

Get Larry Johnson, let Snelling and Norwood go also.

Get J. Peppers from Carolina before the Saints do and he is causing chaos for us again.

CBrass

February 16th, 2010
2:13 pm

Darrick, tell me you’re kidding.

MV–A me player and not capable of leading a team.
Peppers–Takes to many plays off.
Larry Johnson–Likes to hit women and the biggest locker room cancer out there.

I just thought I would point all that out to you.

Darrick

February 16th, 2010
4:45 pm

CBrass, I’m about the team winning not the personal lives of any of them because again that is something only they can contraol or lose control of.

So, are you saying what we have is better the players I am named and that we can win with them?

Ken Strickland

February 16th, 2010
5:51 pm

DERRICK-You’re obviously one of those fans I’ve frequently referred to as being hungup on buying the SIZZLE instead of the steak. You obviously didn’t bother to do a lick of reseach, because if you had, there’s no way you would have made those comments, no way. CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

RB’S-LJOHNSON’s RUSHING ATT’s-178, RUSHING YD’s-581, REC-15, REC YD’s-80, TD’S-0. JSNELLING RUSHING ATT-142, RUSHING YDS-613, REC-30, REC YDS-259, TD’s-1. How much sense does it make to sugggest we get rid of a JSnelling, a far more productive RB than LJohnson, and far cheaper as well?

QB’s-MVick’s PASS ATT’s-13, COMP-6, YDS-86, TD’s-1.
CREDMON’s PASS ATT’s-119, COMP-69, YDS-781, TD’s-4. Based on his extremely limited stats, and the fact he was out of football for over 2yrs prior to last season, how can you possibly say that MVick is, or could be, a better backup than Redmon?

How can you say if the Saints get JPeppers he will create chaos for us again, when he’s had only 1 sack against us over the last 7qtrs? He’s certainly no demon against the run either. If we signed him, his overall production would automatically be reduced, because of the limited number of snaps he’d receive in our rotational DL system.

When taking that into consideration, don’t you think we’d be better off sticking with KBiermann, a young, inexperienced, but improving DE? After all, Biermann managed to get 5 sacks to Peppers’ 10.5 last yr, as well as 7 more tackles in 307 fewer snaps. In Biermann’s rookie yr, as a parttime rotational DE, he managed to get 2 sacks, while in 07 JPeppers, in a contract yr, managed only 2.5 sacks as a fulltime every down DE.

As far as letting Jenkins go because he dropped a few pass is concerned, weren’t people suggesting we get rid of consecutive 2 time Probowl WR RWhite for the same stupid reason?

You are obviously a SIZZLE type of guy.

falcon21

February 16th, 2010
6:35 pm

Thank you Ken Strickland, on point and very well said.

CBrass

February 16th, 2010
6:48 pm

Darrick,

To put it mildly hell yes I do believe that what we have is better than the players that you mentioned. Ken as already broken it down so there is really no need for me to waste my time repeating what he just said.

JJ

February 16th, 2010
7:25 pm

Slam dunk Ken! lol

D3

February 16th, 2010
7:57 pm

Great No-Feel Tuesday Cagers! – Hope everyone is doing well as we roll towards the apex of the week tomorrow, and then its down hill from there. To the Birds………

Mike J – Thanks for the props my man. Good point on HD competing for the #2 WR position. I was really hoping he could push for Jenkins for #2 duty. Not sold on Weems either. He started strong out of the gate, but definitely faded down the stretch in terms kick returning (huge opening fumble against Tampa Bay). Time to add competition at the wide receiver position, IMHO.

ATLJBO – Amazing analysis across the board. You and I are in total agreement on the OL. I also think Reynolds can do compete for a spot as well. Tenders will likely go out to Dahl and Clabo I believe as well. Not saying the OL is in tip-top shape, but its not as bad as many believe. Like your analysis on Antoine Smith as well. Could he be our Pierre Thomas. Your “Goat of the Week” recall was fabulous.

Ed – Thanks for the ups my man. I wouldn’t be upset at all if we take a first round OT, but I’d rather take an OLB. We’ll know a lot more after Feb.25th (I believe), when they have to re-sign any free agents, since they’re restricted it would be if another team offers for Clabo or Dahl.

The Real Falcon – I can certainly understand the need for a top-line OT, but there is some risk there as well. Most always jump on the fact that any 1st round OT will be like Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Michael Oher, or Ryan Clady; but the truth is that there are many tackles who don’t dominate the way they did. Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, Gosder Cherilus, Branden Albert, and Chris Williams were also drafted in the first round to little fanfare. Again, I wouldn’t be upset if we take an OT first, but him being assured to do any better than Baker, Clabo, or Reynolds is just as much a crap-shoot as anything else. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on the receivers. Much more common for receivers to come in and shine immediately, especially if they can work as a #3 or #4 receiver (Johnny Knox, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Louis Murphy).

WR – Agree with you as usual my brother. The receiving corps is bordering on flat line IMHO. If HD returns as good as new than we’ll be back to par, but that’s a big IF. Jenkins would be an excellent #3 or #4 receiver, and anyone else is at the twilight of their career (BFinn, Booker) or completely unproven (Weems). Time to stockpile talent. 2 of the Saints top receivers (Coltson and Meachem) ranked in the top 20 of all wideouts, when the Falcons top 2 ranked 35th (Roddy) and 90th (Jenks), yes…90th out of 107 wideouts. I say use one of the 4th rounders on one and add a guy like Josh Reed via Free Agency to come in and compete, and may the best 5 (or 6) receivers win, regardless of name.

DDawgDavis – Good points as usual. Would love to draft or sign a guy like Jordan Shipley, Riley Cooper, Jacoby Ford, Mardy Gilyard, or Demaryius Thomas to be another playmaker in the passing attack. This wide receiver class is particularly deep, IMHO.

More later Cagers, until then keep the Convo’s going strong!

LRD

February 16th, 2010
8:43 pm

WR: Nice.. and the internal clock… it is there, and its loud, and it speeds up just a tiny bit the more you are pounded into the ground… and when the clock is really going bad the first thing is over throwing the target, then the next symptom is trying to throw through a defender, and then the final sign the clock is out of control is you take 3 steps and immediatly are throwing the ball away after only checking off one rcvr.. and that rcvr was the one designated as your safety valve and is typically your 3rd read.

As fars as WR’s: We need to draft a WR. Maybe we get lucky and get an Austin Miles? Seriously, we need youth in the position, and we need someone with size to go across the middle and go up and make that catch… Jenkins SHOULD be that rcvr, but has not fufilled what many believed to be his true potential.
We all have hope Douglass could open things up for us.. and I am hoping he will. but TD get us a new WR.
And if I may.. we have to sign Koening. I include him in our Offense .. and his hang times are so key.

CBrass

February 16th, 2010
8:55 pm

LRD,

“…we have to sign Koening. I include him in our Offense..”

Great point. I never really thought about it that way. The way that he is able to pin teams inside the 20 with his punts or all of the touch backs that he records is simply amazing. Again great point.

SeminoleWarrior

February 16th, 2010
9:32 pm

Good evening Cage Family….
I’m going to get right to the heart of the matter…..stay committed to the PROCESS!!

Falcon fans everywhere were taken TOTALLY off guard with the 2008 season. This team that we love was the joke of the league. No reasonable coach or GM would come to Atlanta. Arthur Blank, as the experts would claim, had reached rock bottom in electing to give control of his franchise to an unproven in Thomas Dimitroff as a GM over the highly-respected Rich McKay. Blank was crazy to go out and get a “puppet coach ”, accordingly to Marcellus Wiley of ESPN, in Mike Smith. Surely these rookies, Smith and Dimitroff were in too damned deep. Everyone laughed out loud. The Falcons were what we thought they were so said the rest of the NFL. But then something happened.
Smith and Dimitroff introduced a term to the Falcon nation….PROCESS. Openly and honestly, they told the Falcon Nation that this would not be an easy fix but that in time, we would achieve something that no one thought was possible, sustained success. They went to work on it. Yet, the so-called experts still poked fun at the Falcons. That would soon change.

Team Dimitroff went to work. The first bold move, the signing of a running back with ONLY ONE NFL start to his credit shocked everyone. Michael Turner could have gone anywhere in the world he want to go…but he chose Atlanta. Why? He believed in what Team Dimitroff was selling. Next, came April. We rolled the dice, taking a QB and a left tackle in the first round. In the second round, we found a stud of middle linebacker. Team Dimitroff had begun to lay a foundation. But the doubt remained.

The PROCESS, like this team, is VERY young. And it is only going to better. The offensive line can get better in time with quality coaching. Depth at WR is crucial. Add the likes of An Eric Decker, Jordan Shipley, or Fred Barnes to the mix. QB is not an issue but re-signing a veteran like Redman is important to the continuity of process. There is no doubt that the TE position need to be addressed. If the WLB position is not the pick in the first round, then the best player available at a critical need, TE, is Jermaine Gresham. The need is critical due to two facts; Gonzo is heading into his 14th year, the last year of his contract, AND Gresham does not need to be rushed onto the field this season.

RB is not as crucial as it would appear. Antone Smith is a steal. Just think Leon Washington and Warrick Dunn. That is what we have in Smith…trust me. He was held back by a lack of cohesion on my beloved Seminoles offensively. He WILL surprise many if given the chance.

Give the young offense time to continue the Process. It has only just begun to see the light of day.

Give the Progress of the Process a chance…trust me, you will not be disappointed.

falcon21

February 16th, 2010
10:35 pm

Everyone knows we need another WR. That is not hard to see. The QB needs to have a little time to get him the ball. Blame MM all you want but the O-Line is not getting it done. We need to build the O-Line first. Our O-line is over matched against everyone, anyone remember the playoffs against the Cardinals? They handed our azzes to us. Build the O-Line first or we can forget about it!!!

My2Cents

February 17th, 2010
12:09 am

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say I’d like to see the Falcons try Jamal Anderson at tight end before writing him off as a bust as many “fans” would have the Falcons do. Some will question his effort and his heart, but from what I’ve read about the person off the field, I just don’t see it.

Don’t know how many people are aware the kid was an outstanding wide receiver in high school as well as a McDonald’s All Star in basketball. Seems like a number of NFL tight ends were also very good basketball players (e.g. Antonio Gates and our own Tony G.). Jamal’s just 24 years young, and he’d have one, maybe two years if we’re lucky, to apprentice under one of the best to ever play the game. If nothing else, I’d like to see the Falcons experiment with Jamal on the offensive side of the ball, perhaps in the red zone.

E43

February 17th, 2010
1:08 am

i honetly think we need a 4.3 40 receiver in the mix. doesnt have to be a 1st round pick but it has to be a receiver that can help stretch the coverage instantly. heck, i dont care if we use a compensatory pick. fact is our receiver are aging. finn and marty are both at the end of their careers while harry doulass is not a speed threat but more of an agility-acceleration threat. outside of harry and roddy- we truly lack that immediate speed threat.

Brandon2k3

February 17th, 2010
1:39 am

I think we need a few adjustments to a few areas on the offensive side. I honestly would let Norwood go. We need a game breaker behind Turner, but one that also can pound it a little bit in the middle. I’ll keep Snelling around as the 3rd back. We need to prepare for the future at the TE postion, because Gonzalez wont be around too much longer. The wideout postion need a lot of help. Roddy White has proven him self somewhat to be a number one WR, but I would go out and find me a Big number 1 and move Roddy to number 2. Jenkins should move down to the 3 or 4 spot. Him and Douglas should battle for those spots. Finneran could be a fill in if someone goes down. The offensive line need to add a little beef and i think they will be ok. The QB position is ok too.

BT

February 17th, 2010
6:28 am

Great job, D3.
It`s either a real good good sign or a bad sign, that there are so many varied opinions on what moves should take priority.
Either there are holes everywhere or there are actually no critical needs.
I say, there are no critical needs.
Therefore, my strategy would be to select the highest graded player on offense.
If, Dez Bryant or CJ Spiller happen to fall to them?
They have to select either for immediate impact.
If not, take the best O-lineman on the board for now and the future.

The PROCESS was a 2 draft rebuilding plan.
That`s over, like yesterday news.
This team would improve in 2010, if they made no moves at all, by simply gaining in experience.

Lets add a home run hitter or two and play for Championships..NOW!

Paddy

February 17th, 2010
7:38 am

Darrick, with that assessment of our team and your suggestions, we would be lucky to win 3 games next year. A little over the top. We are not the Raiders remember!

LRD

February 17th, 2010
8:49 am

My 02.. very interesting perspective….

WR

February 17th, 2010
9:21 am

Morning cage, jumping back into the discussion on offense, so far the Falcons have had a great year with the O-Line and a not so good year with the O-Line, but they haven’t had a bad year. This line has only two years together, and outside of McClure none of them were starters before they were put together. There young, when a QB has a not so good year after his rookie season its called a sophomore slump, when the OL has a bad year after what basically was there rookie season we want heads to roll. I can see the Falcons drafting a OL but not in the first round, you don’t discard what you have after only two seasons. We fail to remember it was just a few seasons ago the Falcons ran a zone-blocking scheme which required a smaller OL, in three years, one under the hog man coward, and two under Smith the Falcons have completely rebuilt that unit and the offense has been one of the best since. When you consider that the Falcons only real options on offense have been Turner and White, one year of Gonzo with a second year QB can we really say the O-Line is that bad. Coach’em up has been the call of some, and I see that taking place, add a weapon or two to keep defenses honest. This is the NFL, the Pros, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again, how do you block a defense that always knowns whats coming, they don’t have to fear your passing game because you only have one good receiver and a recently added TE.

.

WR

February 17th, 2010
9:21 am

I mentioned it yesterday but does Dallas not have what is supposedly one of the best OLs in the NFL. When they were in the Falcons boat meaning they had T.O and Whitten how far did they go, they risked alot to get Roy Williams because TO and Whitten needed a true compliment, Williams was who we thought he was and turned out to be a bust, but they found Austin, paired him with two other good WRs and Williams plus Whitten and they became a feared team. They didn’t blame the abuse Romo was taking on the OL, they blamed it on the lack of playmakers in the passing game, so they upgraded the passing game while not touching the OL and did it work. Thats why I like Spiller on offense in the first round, game changer, playmaker, same as on defense I like Spoon, playmaker, potential game changer. Even the OL needs help from the units around them, we don’t blame everything on the DL, we say its the LBs or DBs, but how often do we say hey the OL needs help from the other units, and the coordinator, hardly ever

BT

February 17th, 2010
9:47 am

WR,
Good points.

How about Bill Musgrave being promoted to Assistant HC?
Perhaps someone else (other than fans) was less that satisfied with the offensive game planning and play calls and decided to install some quality assurance?

WR

February 17th, 2010
10:31 am

BT, thanks you, and the promotion of Musgrave makes even a better point. For those saying its the O-line, suppose your MRyan, you drop back your options are White who is doubled covered or in tight coverage against a good CB, your next read is Gonzalez who also is double covered, you have no check down RB, and then there’s Jenkins who you don’t trust, what do you do. Lets see you wait for White or Gonzo maybe they can get open, here comes a sack, you try to force it in, here comes a turnover, you try to find some space to run and make the most out of a play, here comes a sack, you throw it to Jenkins, well maybe this time he will try to make a play on the ball, nope, here comes the punting unit. That whole time that process was going on with the QB your on the O-line with any luck your blocking 5 against 6 or 7, but chances are your 5 against eight because the team your facing happens to have a Darrell Revis type who is single covering White, Gonzo had to stay in before he releases to help against constant blitzes, now a LB drops off with him upon release, you have Jenkins who is completely single covered because he gets no respect whatever, and eight men are barrowing down on five to run your face in the turf. Could be me but 8 to 5 is only good odds if your gambling, if your on the Falcons OL 8 against 5 means giving up a sack, turnover, or punting. Now does that sound like the Falcons we saw this past season, it does to me.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

February 17th, 2010
10:31 am

Great article D3!!!

Having an OL that can block and pass protect is needed by the Falcons. When you watch other teams with good OLs and witness how much time the QB has to find open receivers, how huge the holes are for the RBs, you realize that the Falcons definitely need an upgraded OL.

However, with that said, a tall shutdown cornerback must be addressed first….definitely before the OL.

aDrummer

February 17th, 2010
10:31 am

I heard that the Chargers wanted to trade Cromartie for a running back?? I think we could use him what y’all think? sry if somebody already said this

WR

February 17th, 2010
10:51 am

Another quick point for ya’ll run me out for posting to much. One of the favorite comments from commentors about a WR is that he’s good because he can find the soft spots in the zone, sit down, and wait for the QB to deliver the ball. Did you ever here that about a Falcons receiver, maybe old man Fin, another comment is that blah blah RB is a great check down back, he can make plays with the ball, you ever here that about a Falcons RB, and lastly in the passing game, you here the D has to respect such and such speed so they have to keep a safety back, ever here that about facing the Falcons. White had a few, specifically against the niners, but how many RAC(run after catch) yards are the Falcons receivers or RBs known for, not many, which probably means you can bring the house without the threat of getting burned, once again, I say try to block in the passing game up against that.

WR

February 17th, 2010
11:11 am

Yep I’m going to get ran out of here, but consider this when referring to the O-Line, the Falcons lost twice to the SuperBowl champions, but played them better then anyone else, give or take a not so go preformance by the Saints in a loss. They loss once to Carolina, thats three losses in their division. Now the other losses were against NE, Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants. Everyone of those teams utilize a blitzing type scheme, the Giants should be excluded because they couldn’t stop the Falcons, the Eagles game was a complete wash, for the first time in the Smith era the Falcons didn’t even show up, which leaves two 3-4 teams which are specifically designed to bring players from all angles. NE was not good at all on defense, but by sending everyone but there mom at Ryan they knew White and Gonzalez were the Falcons only option in the passing game. The D layed an egg in Dallas which made the team one dimensional, but a one dimensional team with only two options doesn’t have much of a chance. Every team that had a decent cover corner gave the Falcons fits, but not one team with what supposedly a good front seven hurt the Falcons if they didn’t have a corner that could single cover White. Point being, it wasn’t the O-line, it was the lack of options, whether thats on Murlarkey or needing a playmaker or two, the options were limited. Before we shout about the O-Line consider those games, especially the ones where we gave the Superbowl champions hell because they didn’t have a decent corner to single cover White, now blame it on the O-line.

CBrass

February 17th, 2010
11:33 am

Most underrated and overrated prospects at each position. According to the author of the column.

http://today.sportingnews.com/sportingnewstoday/20100216?sub_id=CpnZCN7CngLFX&folio=CGI#pg24

D3

February 17th, 2010
12:10 pm

Great Hump Day Cagers! – Feels good to be on the downslope of the week and steaming towards the weekend. Excellent convo’s by all in here. Looks like the debate is coming down to which one is more pressing Wide Receivers vs. O-Line. Love the debate, and the combine hasn’t even occurred yet. Hells yeah (as some of my students like to say).

More Later – Try to pry away and discuss some birds today and tonight. Maybe a new post up tonight.

oldmaninatlanta

February 17th, 2010
1:02 pm

Trade Norwood to the Chargers for Cromartie.Antone Smith can take Norwoods spot and no doubt Cromartie is a starter at CB.A 4.3 reciever is a must.Finneran is a injury waiting to happen and Jenkins can’t catch a cold.Basically we have ONE legitimate NFL wideout,so they have to address that.

ATLJBO

February 17th, 2010
1:11 pm

I was talking to Cro… He has a house in Atlanta and he said he would love to play in Atlanta.