The Bird Cage is back and ready to go after a short break and the week of preseason and training camp have definitely started to make things a little more clear than they were on the first day of Training Camp when the Falcons opened in shorts and helmets. Some names have risen to the top of the heap and some, unfortunately, have already seen the Turk. After a pretty good showing against the lowly Chiefs, fans expect the Falcons to ramp up the competition as they play one of the best teams of the 21st century in the New England Patriots. As the Birds prepare for a big preseason test (and their last preseason game at home), The Bird Cage ponders several questions and looks forward to getting the true experts (Bird Cage and Falcons fans) opinion as preseason rolls forward:
No Falcons fan in their right mind could believe that the devastating injury bug could strike nearly as bad as it did last year. The Falcons lost reserves, starters, and even franchise cornerstones to multiple injuries where they missed many games and, in some cases, major parts of the season. The Falcons lost both their 1st and 2nd round picks essentially for the year (Peria Jerry and William Moore). They lost Harry Douglas for the entire season. Brian Williams missed almost three-fourths of the season. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Sam Baker…..well you get the picture. The Falcons haven’t had many major injuries yet, but their big off-season signing, Dunta Robinson, has barely participated since the first week of Training Camp. Brent Grimes just injured his groin. Jerious Norwood, Thomas Johnson, and William Moore have all missed time and Michael Jenkins is out 4-6 weeks. Besides Jenkins, they’re all expected to make a pretty quick return, but is heartbeat beating faster than it should be?
Granted, Ryan only played a handful of snaps in his first preseason game and almost everyone looked rusty in some form against the Chiefs, but Ryan going to Gonzalez repeatedly may cause some concern for fans. Its hard to argue throwing to #88 (he is a future Hall of Famer, by the way), but fans saw what happened when they took Gonzo and Roddy White away….bad things happened. Lack of wide receiver production and poor play-calling were major factors as well, buts its hard to argue that the Falcons haven’t improved their WR depth (albeit very young) and Mularkey hopefully will improve. Its way too early, but Ryan’s got to spread around the wealth, doesn’t he?
Most fans will immediately scoff and say no, but considering that the Falcons seem to have found some gems in Dmitri Nance and Antone Smith, who are nicely complementary to each other, and Jerious Norwood can not stay on the field….literally. Norwood ended the season hurt and has begun the preseason hurt without getting many reps or looks for a rebound season. Before dismissing it outright, Norwood’s vast potential is only just that if he continues to stay hurt. It’s pretty easy to say that Norwood is injury-prone at this point. Disregarding the NFL Owners and Player’s Union current strife, the Falcons will eventually have to decide between either Snelling or Norwood, because both will seek to be at least number 2 backs and be paid as such. Even though injured, Norwood’s potential would probably garner some interest and that would allow the Falcons to develop the gems they mined in Nance and Smith. Even though the Falcons definitely probably will never entertain offers for #32, should they?
Only two short years ago, the Falcons defensive tackle position was in total disarray and easily considered one of the weakest areas of the team. Grady Jackson was the star and he was let go. Jonathan Babineaux represented potential, but hadn’t arrived. Journeyman Jason Jefferson and like occupied the DT spots. But after good signings and draft picks, has the Birds D-Tackle position finally become strength? The Falcons boast a potential Pro Bowler in Babineaux (should have got it last year), a promising 1st round draft pick determined to get back in Peria Jerry, a rookie who has quickly created a buzz at camp in Corey Peters, two players that played extremely well in starting roles at the end of the season in Vance Walker and Thomas Johnson, and the x-factor in Jamaal Anderson moving inside and adding weight, push, and run-stuffing ability to middle. The Falcons also have Trey Lewis trying to get back his rookie form and nab a spot. Even though Peters is a rookie and Jerry’s injury history is worrisome, have the Falcons finally transformed DT into a strength?
(Editor’s Note: Have No Fear, Many More Questions to Come Soon!)
-Answer the Fiery Four Questions of Preseason
-What questions do you have for future preseason installments?
-Are you concerned with all the injuries, albeit mostly minor at this point?
-Too early to tell on Ryan focusing too much on Gonzalez?
-Should the Falcons put Norwood on the block?
-Has DT finally become a major strength for the Falcons?