Final Falcons Questions as Preseason Closes

Are the Birds Ready to Go?

Just Preseason, Right? (C.Compton/AJC)

Well, if you go by preseason records, then the Falcons are in serious trouble at 0-3 as they await their final exhibition game against the Ravens in the Georgia Dome. There have been some bright spots and the Birds have been in the lead in two of the games when Matt Ryan headed for the bench. On the flipside, there have been a few head-scratchers and causes for concern. A few final questions as the Falcons get ready to wrap up preseason.

1) Suddenly “Stout” Secondary?

Maybe it was always in Thomas Dimitroff’s grand scheme or maybe it was a reaction from the vapor trails left by Antonio Brown on Saturday night in Pittsburgh, but Falcons fans have to be feeling a whole lot better right now than they did Sunday morning. Dimitroff picked up one of his former players he scouted in New England in safety James Sanders on Tuesday and then added veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden, formerly of the Colts, on Wednesday. Combined, the two have started 96 games (Sanders – 50, Hayden – 46) for two of the best two teams in the NFL. Sanders started 15 games for the 18-0 Patriots in 2007. Sanders had lost his starting job in New England and Hayden has battled serious injury issues and they still have to fit in and learn Van Gorder’s complex, yet vanilla defensive scheme, but it sure feels so much better now. Best thing of all is that Sanders is 27 and Hayden just turned 28 if they want to make them long-term options.

2) Who’s Odd Man Out @ Cornerback?

Owens in Jeopardy? (AJC)

The Hayden signing adds a much more intriguing element as cut-down day looms. Obviously, Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, Kelvin Hayden, and Dominique Franks are basically locks in 4 out of the 5 CB spots. Is Chris Owens the odd man out this year and will he be Chevis Jackson Part 2? Like Owens, Jackson’s star seemed to have a bright future with a very good rookie season only to regress and wipe away any reason to keep him. On the one hand, Owens gives you your best 5th cornerback and only two years ago was showing that he could start at cornerback in the NFL. But on the other hand, guys like Rafael Bush or Darrin Walls are young and show immense talent. If preseason is the tie-breaker, than Owens is a goner because he has not looked like a player who has found a rebirth, but rather someone who appears lost in the secondary at times. Also consider he was a 3rd round draft pick and we’re even having this conversation now.

3) Over for Sidbury or Davis at DE?

Another one of the more interesting late-stage battles is for one of the backup defensive end spots. Four of the five spots are as good as locked in. Abraham and Ray Edwards are locked in as starters. Biermann is a key rotational player and Cliff Matthews has had a great camp as a 7th round draft pick rookie. That leaves two, maybe three, defensive ends competing for one spot. The big battles appears to be between veteran Chauncey Davis and unrealized potential Lawrence Sidbury. On the surface, you’d think they go with the experience and versatility of Davis. But after looking at his salary of 3+ million a year as a backup, its not so clear cut. There’s an outside chance that the Birds could keep practice squad stalwart Emmanuel Stephens and cut both, but that doesn’t seem very likely.

4) Hawley Ready?

News that Todd McClure will miss the Chicago opener and break his long starting streak is worrisome news to Falcons fans. The anchor and captain of the offensive line is one of the more underrated centers in the league. Hawley was selected to be the heir to McClure at center, but is he ready to take over against the Bears in Chicago on opening day?

5) Where’s the True Turner?

How Much Left for TG? (AJC)

There’s not a ton to add here since this topic has been beat to pulp. The facts are that Turner has made 2 out of the last 3 Pro Bowls and was the second leading rusher only two years ago. He’s also looked like a running back who has lost a serious step since his debut in Atlanta in 2008 where he was nicknamed “the burner.” Much of it is not his fault since he has had almost 1,000 carries in only 3 years. A final point is this: we were having these same conversations on Turner this time last year and he followed that up with a 1,371 yard, 12 TD, Pro Bowl effort.

6) Is Gonzalez Nearing End?

A terrible question to pose, but one that must be asked. Even the best ones can’t last forever and Gonzalez seems to losing his ability to separate from defenders the way he used to. Since 2007, Gonzo’s yards and receptions have been on the decline. Make no mistake, he will go down as the best tight end to ever play the game and his role will be allowed to be reduced with the advent of Julio Jones and Harry Douglas. But the question still remains, how much gas does Gonzo have left in the tank?

7) Expectations of Ray Edwards

This one is simple: what are your expectations for Ray Edwards as an Atlanta Falcon? Will you be happy with another 8 sack effort as he’s done the last two years? Will you be OK with less than 8 sacks if he helps increase the overall pressure from the defensive line? Is he the missing piece on this defense?

8.) Best LB Corps In……………….

This is such a ridiculous question since not one meaningful snap has been taken, but does this linebacker corps have the potential of being, collectively, one of the best in a long time for the Atlanta Falcons? Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton, and Sean Weatherspoon, arguably, give the Birds the most athletic and fast LB corps they’ve had in quite some time. Your thoughts?

9) Worried About QB Depth?

Should Birds Look Elsewhere for Backup QB? (C.Compton/AJC)

This is a silly question on the surface because if any team has to go with their backups, especially at QB, than it’s natural to take a huge hit. However, the few glimpses of Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson gave fans a few jitters in the case of an emergency. Redman has come on and won before against Tampa Bay, but he looked pretty bad himself in the preseason. But again, it is just preseason.

10) Dunta’s Hamstring?

Hamstring injuries are one of the worst ones to get because they can linger and linger and linger. Does Dunta Robinson’s hamstring injury worry you or do you feel pretty good about the start in Chicago? Was the Kelvin Hayden signing a signaling of the seriousness of the injury.

11) Falcons Prepared for 5 Game Crunch?

Even though the schedule isn’t one of the worst in history, the start of the season for the Birds surely isn’t desirable in the least. The Falcons open at Chicago, where the NFC Championship was held. While the Bears aren’t the Steelers, you know that place will be crazy on opening day. Then the Falcons return home to host the Eagles on Sunday Night Football with the circus that will follow that. Not to mention the fact that the Falcons coaching staff probably couldn’t match the Eagles staff with 22 players starting vs. their 11.

Eagles tight end Brent Celek (87) eludes Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson (53) during the second half.

Remember This Nightmare? (AP)

Then the Falcons travel to everyone’s darling team Tampa Bay Bucs where they may have revenge on their mind for the one they stole last year. Then it’s a trip out west to Seattle, where the Seahawks will be feeling good in season 2 after their surprising playoff jaunt last year. Finally, the Falcons come back home to host the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, where just the mention of the game sends chills and gag reflexes to Falcons fans of what happened in the “Debacle in the Dome.”

It’s a tired cliché to say how important the first games are, but even if the Falcons come out at 2-3, it wouldn’t kill the rest of the season. Anything over 3-2 would be fantastic, but less than 2 would be devastating. This stretch is reminiscent of the brutal 2009 stretch that put a damper on that season.

12) 6th Wide Receiver or 5th Running Back?

Neither would play much of a role in the actual offense, but the question is one worth pondering. Would you want to hang onto Brandyn Harvey as a 6th wide receiver, with a receiving corps has two players that had previous knee injuries? Or would it be better to keep a running back like Antone Smith or Gartrell Johnson, who’ve proven very little when given chances? Ultimately, it won’t matter too much, but Dmitri Nance has a Super Bowl ring now.

13) Hot Seats?

Although heated conversations get thrown around a lot, do you really think that any of the coaches, specifically OC Mike Mularkey or DC Brian Van Gorder are truly on the hot seat? Both the offense and defense finished top 5 in scoring last year. But both of them also played a major part in one of the worst playoff beatdowns in NFL history as well. If either are on the hot seat, which one’s seat is blazing more?

Your Turn

585 comments Add your comment

uga_b

August 31st, 2011
10:04 pm

Why not? First!

BT

August 31st, 2011
10:12 pm

I don`t dare be First.

FrontRow

August 31st, 2011
10:12 pm

That was quick D3. I brought this over from the previous blog and I’ll give some feedback on the above is a few:

Gotta be reminded…..the final spots are all about special teams.

Do we need to pull out posts from last year? Mid season 2010 we were ALL whining about ST. Biermann, Grimes, Owens, others had to step up and play dual roles for the likes of Sidbury, Franks, and other young guys with “potential” that couldn’t cut the mustard.

When all of you GMs out there start picking who is in and who is out don’t forget – your picks will most likely (and hopefully) not see the field all year EXCEPT ST.

LRD

August 31st, 2011
10:13 pm

Secondary, on paper, just upgraded. Ray Edwards is an upgrade. Jerry healthy is upgrade. Peters after a year under his belt is upgrade. Spoon healthy is an upgrade. Lofton starting the season healthy is an upgrade, etc…..
Now can BVG not say he doesnt have the personal in place? Can he start being more aggressive with a more senior Def backfield? Can he start letting Spoon put his money where his mouth is?
We are running out of excuses on why our D cannot be a superior D…..

SJ

August 31st, 2011
10:18 pm

“Stout” seems like a bit of a stretch.

FrontRow

August 31st, 2011
10:31 pm

LRD – BVG can crank it up but it relies on DeCoud being in place more often than not.

Are you willing to put chips on the table for that bet?

tyler

August 31st, 2011
10:32 pm

Yeah. couldn’t agree more, Chompers has had plenty of time to get these guys going on D. BVG’s seat should be hot and if this team doesnt finish the year as one of the best Ds in the NFL, time to go.

just me

August 31st, 2011
10:33 pm

This might have been posted in the previous thread if you missed it here is a link to the article about signing CB Kelvin Hayden

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2011/08/falcons-strike-deal-with-cb-kelvin-hayden/1

just me

August 31st, 2011
10:34 pm

eep…guess I should have read D3’s article first. Sorry :(

just me

August 31st, 2011
10:35 pm

too long in the Texas sun today for Soccer practice :D

FalconFan

August 31st, 2011
10:46 pm

I wouldn’t say we’re now “stout” in the secondary but those guys are definately an upgrade over what we had.

FrontRow

August 31st, 2011
10:56 pm

1. TD has history in this department (B Williams, D Foxworth). Look for more of the same magic. Can DeCoud play special teams?

2. Again, special teams. Owens can play. Are the guys at the bottom practice squad material?

3. Repeat #2. I would hate to see Sidbury go but he is a liability on ST.

4. We’re gonna find out if the Falcons O-line depth is real or an illusion pretty quickly.

5. Sorry guys but I want #33 with the ball in the 4th quarter and a 7-10 point lead. That is ALWAYS the CMS gameplan. I don’t care if he is a bit slower, he doesn’t fumble and it HURTS when you tackle him (ditto for the Snelling and Jaquizz).

6. Yeah you’re right D3. But pick any player in the NFL to be on your team as the “old guy mentor”. I’m sure Tony is at the top of your list.

7. Only saw Abe and Edwards together for one game. Looks to me like the pocket was collapsing ALOT quicker but time will tell. If anything, it gives the Biermann some rest – playmakers need that.

8. This is where we make the hay. Last year comes down to too many LBs failing to make the kill shot on the QB. My money says that don’t happen in 2011 (i.e.Aaron Rodgers leaves the dome this time with a bruise for every point scored in the 2010 playoffs).

9. If MR goes down, #11 and the running game need to fill the gap. I good with that.

10. Hayden signing is for depth. Can the guy play special teams? Falcons are perfectly willing to park hobbled DBs on the roster; it takes more than 2 starters to finish a season.

11. HE!! YEAH! Bring em on! The bigger they are the harder they fall.

12. Jaquizz cost both the 2010 fill in RBs their job. He can do it all (ST too). Remember the Patriot way – flexibility is an asset.

13. None of the above but I’ll never win that arguement on anyone’s AJC blog.

Spot on Dtan

August 31st, 2011
10:58 pm

We’re almost “ready”

We just need to bring back MV7 to the ATL.

MattyRattic just isn’t the answer.

And we all know it.

Big Ray

August 31st, 2011
11:02 pm

Is it possible to make Executive of the Year for a third time? Fact is, TD, who took a LOT of heat during and after the draft, may have done it again, and all for just the right price. No big sales, no flashy signings, no huge headline-grabbing expenditures. What’s TD really done? A few things:

1) Given OC Mularkey more suitable weapons to work with, allowing him to open up his personal bag of tricks, while not taking away things that Matt Ryan needed, and eliminating pieces that couldn’t/weren’t getting the job done.

2) Given DC Van Gorder proven NFL veteran talent to work with in the two biggest areas of need (pass rush, secondary) without giving away the young and developing talent that other teams no doubt covet.

3) Only sold draft picks for a very high draft pick, not for veteran players.

4) Hasn’t broken the bank or given out a plethora of millions over several years for the veteran help, outside of the very reasonable contract of Ray Edwards.

5) Given this team a chance to still build for the future in some spots, where its needed.

6) Made what appear to be excellent value picks (Quizz, The Octopus, The President) aka (Jacquizz Rodgers, Cliff Matthews, Andrew Jackson).

7) Didn’t pay a kicker/punter upwards of $18 million for doing something a cheap veteran or low draft pick could. Do you really think Tampa Bay is gonna have good field position all season long for that money?

I could go on….but I want to answer D3’s questions….

Big Ray

August 31st, 2011
11:03 pm

My nomination for blog monster dinner special of the week:

Spot on Dtan

August 31st, 2011
10:58 pm
We’re almost “ready”

We just need to bring back MV7 to the ATL.

MattyRattic just isn’t the answer.

And we all know it.

Spot on Dtan

August 31st, 2011
11:06 pm

The King has no clothes.

New coach in 2012.

New GM in 2013.

New Owner in 2015.

Join the Dtan ownership group.

Not too late to hop on the bandwagon.

FrontRow

August 31st, 2011
11:06 pm

What is the blog monster dinner special?

DHunt

August 31st, 2011
11:39 pm

1. Was never worried about the defensive backs. Either Smitty will have them ready to play or TD will have someone else ready to play.
2. Odd man out is Walls, assuming Hayden is healthy enough to go full speed wight now. Hope he makes it to practice squad.
3. Chauncy’s contract just cost him a roster spot. NFL means Not For Long
4. Hawley better be ready, or Romberg will take his spot. See definition of NFL above
5. True Turner is still a1000 yard back, as long as he isn’t the prime feature of the offense. And he shouldn’t be this year. If defenses can’t load up to stop him, he will be more than fine.
6. Gonzo has enough left in the tank, because for the first time in his career, he doesn’t have to be a first or second option. In fact, he should be no more than a third option if this offense is as prolific as it’s potential indicates. Let’s get the old man a ring and get him back for one more, and then send him off happy.
7. Ray Edwards has already shown what he will bring to the Falcons. The pocket collapsed all around been all night. It’s now pick your poison on the defensive line, and they can all beat you. QB can’t escape out either side or up the middle means more pressure and sacks overall, even if one individuals stats are less than optimal.
8. Without a doubt best “looking” LB corps in forever. Best performing? We can only hope.
9. Who isn’t worried about QB depth, except maybe Philly? Let’s not even go there with this question. MR2 has been durable for the most part and the line has kept him clean, for the most part. Let’s just focus on that.
10. Dunta’s hamstring is the million dollar question. Actually a bit more than a million. And thus far, this is the biggest concern I have about the defense. He’s making too much money not to be a true number one corner. We should be able to roll coverage away from him to help the other side and the nickel. Unless and until he can hold up his end, he is the weakest link.
11. Whether the first five games are a beast is just as much about the other teams as it is about the Falcons. The Bears, Eagles, Bucs, and Seahawks have all looked shaky at times this preseason. As much or more than the falcons (Ryan hasn’t had a 3 interception half). So the idea that we have some sort of juggernaut to handle is a bit premature. What we know is that we have the team to win most, if not all of these games. I think the defining moment of this season will be what we do with Green Bay. If the Falcons deliver that much deserved retribution, then the rest of the season should be smooth sailing to the Lombardi trophy.
12. If they carry a 5th RB it better not be either of the two that we have already. If Harvey can play special teams, he’s a keeper.
13. I hope both coaches feel like they are on the hot seat. It shouldn’t be enough to just compete with the talent we have. They need to look good and they need to live up to expectations. Anything less from either unit should result in questioning the philosophy, because we should be past questioning the personnel at this point.

Knew Money

August 31st, 2011
11:55 pm

I like what the birds have done picking up two quality, vets in the secondary. I’d say why stop here. Wait and see who else will be released on cut day. This of course means that Owens will probably be the odd man out. As far as everything else. I like where we are. I counted 11 wins looking at the schedule. Don’t matter how we get there 11 – 5 or 10 – 6 will be fine with me. Just as long as we can get a home playoff win.

Mike

August 31st, 2011
11:58 pm

I brought up possibilities of Hayden or Hobbs in the Jax blog. I like hayden if he can stay healthy, and with him being relegated to 2nd and longs & 3rd downs I am sure that will help. I like the Sanders signing, I think Schillenger is out unless he makes plays on spec teams that has us hitting the rewind button on our DVR’s. Turner will be fine, I expect that he will be a factor, but we will probably see more RB by committee this year. I think he still becomes a 1000 yard rusher, but barely. Although I think Smitty and Co really like Davis, due to his salary..I believe he is out, unless they are not optimistic about Sidbury’s development. At CB I think Owens could be odd man out…unless they feel that they could keep Walls on practice squad for a year and develop him to compete for the #3 or #4 CB next year. Hawley I am afraid could struggle, hopefully McClure will be back soon. I am sure the playing time will benefit Hawley and the Falcons down the road. As far as Gonzo is concerned I am sure this is his last year, atleast as a full time starter. He is a class act, and I would love to see him standing on the podium and kissing the Lombardi come Feb 2012. he has been on some really good team that has had some really bad luck come January. I will be happy with ray Edwards getting 6-10 sacks if he takes pressure of Abe, the interior linemen, and if BVG realizes that he has a front four that concerns many OC’s and elects sometimes to bring LB, Safety, and Corner Blitzes while playing man to man (I am not talking about dropping Edwards or Abe into a soft zone). I am hoping that they will be able to jump on teams and bring out an agressive approach on defense once they grab significant leads. QB depth, hopefully will not be an issue we talk about after preseason. However Redman is a decent game manager, he will not make plays, but can keep from losing…..which turns backl to defense…can they take over a game if needed? I think our LB’s are the best we have had since we had Bennett and Tuggle. 6th WR definitely, I like Harvey…first I do not want to see him scooped up by antoher tema, and second If someone goes down I feel like he is a good plug in…if we lose a Rb, I am not convinced Smith or Johnson would be the answer.

Dtan- while many of us real Falcon Fans are happy for what Mike Vick has been able to accomplish given a second chance, I am content with the guy we have leading our team now. I will be critical of Ryan when the situation calls for it, because I am passionate about my team not one player. At this moment Matt Ryan boasts an unimpressive 7-8 record against teams with 10+ wins. I would like to see that improve, becase those are the teams you have to beat to get respect. While many people come on this blog, and like to point out how terrible Ryan is based solely on the fact that he took over a floundering franchise, left in ruins by Vick’s poor decisions….and somehow helped turn this thing around. Many want to see him fail because they somehow think he is responsible or the Falcons are responsible for Vicks actions. While many come on here and contend that the Falcons would be better with Vick, and maybe the Vick we all watched last year they could be right…But Vick though having some brilliant “moments” here in Atlanta was not impressive when it mattered. As I pointed out earlier Ryan holds a less than stellar record against teams with 10+ wins in a season…7-8 to be exact, as QB of the Falcons Vick managed an even less impressive 4-16-1 record against opponents that finished with 10+ wins. Now everyone who was a so called Falcons fan due to their liking of one player, you are welcone to challenge the stats that I have posted…I encourage you…I will continue to be critical of ryan when ever he checks down a ball, rather thn trusting his receiver who is in one on one…or when he prematurely throws a ball away (even though a couple of years ago I complained he held the ball to long)..I will do that out of love for my team…not my infactuation with one player that bought his own ticket out of Atlanta.

Big Ray

September 1st, 2011
12:09 am

1) It’s a special season because of the lockout. Everything sped up because of the delayed timetable. Time was compressed. Only the smooth shooters can be both accurate and fast at the same time. TD is a smooth shooter. He hits the target quickly, but also accurately. He and his team are like the CIA and KGB combined, we never really know what they’re gonna do until its done, and he can change directions on a dime, which is necessary in this business, especially when the accelerated events of something like a suddenly lifting lockout comes into play. TD is a budding master of these things. He knows strategy.

Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do. Strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.

Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower – Polish and French Chess Grandmaster, late 1800s to mid 1900s

We’ll never know if TD planned it all along or simply traversed the rice patties without breaking a single one. And it may seem like I’m over-gushing….but there is great value in getting good value for little money and even less committment, in the grand scheme of things. Sanders and Hayden are the perfect innoculation for any possible wounds. They have multiple purposes. They can either start while the younger guys continue to learn (Franks, Owens,Decoud,Walls), or they can slip in as replacements if anyone is hurt or can’t get to 100% (Robinson) or otherwise isn’t performing (Franks, Owens, Decoud), and they are just the right age. Not too young, not too old. They’ll also add fire to the younger guys who should already be hungry to start, and were facing little competition from rooks and UDFAs (ahem…Mr. Decoud).

What we have here is also an example of a winning culture. No longer is it necessary to cajole free agents/veterans with loads of money to convince them that this place is the best place for their services. There was a time where we couldn’t get guys like this without throwing DeAngelo Hall contracts at DeAngelo Hall-type players.

Our secondary is now quite deep and rather stout. Not the best in the NFL….but above the middle of the pack.

2) Odd man out at CB? It’s hard to think of Owens as being on the block after hearing a vote of confidence from Mike Smith last year and over the summer, but here we are. It could be that the Falcons will carry 6 CBs, but is that really likely? Maybe, maybe not. The true question is whether or not they want to continue to give Owens a shot at being either a solid starter, or a solid backup. Does Walls and his man-to-man coverage skills + his size outshine Owens developmental growth? How about Bush’s versatility (capable of playing Safety and NCB)? I think that it takes one of the two guys’ potential to knock Owens out of the picture. But it could happen. Right now I can’t venture a sure answer, but for the heck of it, I’ll make a rare two-sided prediction – Falcons carry 6 CBs or Walls’ potential gets him in over Owens, who gets cut.

3 All speculation on my part, but I think the data available adds up to it being over for Chauncey Davis. Davis made more sense to keep around as an effective veteran pass rushing DE when we still had JA98, who was used at DE only against the run, and primarily played inside at DT. Davis was also able to plug in on occasion at DT, but rarely used that way (if I remember right). At the time, we were plugging holes and trying to get by. Now, we have a solid and hungry Corey Peters (injured at the moment), an effective backup in Vance Walker and Trey Lewis, the always special stalwart in Babineaux, and the healthy/hungry pile pusher in Peria Jerry….all at DT. Add to that the signing of Carlton Powell, a veteran. That leaves only DE for Davis, who has to find time after Edwards, Abe, Biermann, and probably won’t be allowed to intrude upon the development of Cliff Matthews. Again, it all depends on how many DEs the Birds want to carry.

My bet? Fiscal responsibility with an eye towards the future. Davis is gone, and Sidbury is on the bubble, with his chances of making the team leaning towards the simple fact that he is paid less.

4) Whether or not Hawley is ready is immaterial. He HAS to be. He will be thrown to the wolves, tested by fire, whatever analogy you choose. And he will perform. Or he will not. He’s been trained by Boudreau. He’s been mentored by McClure. The time is now. But TD is no fool. All plans need contingency plans. Romberg waits in the shadows as a stop gap if needed. My money is on Hawley struggling briefly and then quickly settling into a groove with the support of his teammates.

5 Turner isn’t the burner anymore. He has lost a step. But woe to the team that finds him in the second level. Turner may find his path easier with a more deadly passing attack and fewer carries. He’ll still run over anybody if he gets 3-4 yards worth of a head of steam. He’ll still punch in several touchdowns. And the presence of Quizz may help with that as a 1-2 punch. He’s still a second half nightmare for any defense that gets tired or doesn’t handle the run well.

6) TG is a living legend who does have trouble separating against the better and quicker defenders of today’s defenses. However, he’s still very sure-handed, still runs excellent routes, and still can get underneath or on top of a defense through precision and guile. Still one of the better TEs in the game, just no longer at the current top of the heap. The field will get bigger for Gonzalez as teams try to play catch up to the two Predators on the outside, and try to keep tabs on the quick and elusive HD in the slants and across the middle. Michael Palmer waits in the wings, not daring to be a legend, but promising to be a viable target.

7 Kroy Biermann got plenty of snaps last season and came up with 3 sacks. He had some hurries and pressures, but not enough of them, and certainly not enough effective ones. Ray Edwards showed an obvious difference in how the defense managed to push in against Roethlisberger against the Steelers. It’s not how many sacks Edwards gets that will tell the whole story. It’s how many he gets, how many hurries/pressure, and how many times his play causes others to get a chance. If Edwards gets 7 sacks, it will be fine. But it will surely be fine if he only gets 7 sacks because it allows Abe to get his, and Babineaux/Peters/Jerry to get a few of their own……each.

8) No doubt. This LB corps has legendary potential written all over it. The key to it all is health the ability and attitude is already there.

9) Toughest question. Jittery play by the O-line reserves and other reserve/hopeful types, along with lockout rust acknowledged by O-line coach Boudreau may be making the QBs look worse than they do. So could a bunch of experimenting and little game planning, except with the starting squad for 2-3 quarters against Pittsburgh. We have to remember. If these backup QBs come into play, it will be with starters…not with reserves.

10) Teams are notoriously close-mouthed about injuries, and while the Hayden signing might have been about Dunta’s hamstring in part , I think the bigger indicating factor about his injury was how quickly the coaching staff pulled him out of action, and for how long. Interviews with Dunta show him chomping at the bit to get back into the game. He’ll be rusty again, coming into the season, which is unfortunate. But he should be healthy.

11) The Falcons will be ready to grind it out. Smitty won’t accept anything less, he’s all about preparation.

12) 6th receiver. Guys like Gartrell Johnson and Antone Smith are barely practice squad serviceable and can be had anytime. There is NOT a strong market for RBs right now, most have trouble getting paid the same as they were, let alone getting paid more, and some (ahem…Snelling) found that WRs are more in demand coming out of jail than RBs are, coming out of a good season.

13)

Big Ray

September 1st, 2011
12:18 am

13) Hot seat? My vote goes for Van Gorder. Top 5 units mean nothing when you get wasted each time you get to the playoffs. Van Gorder has to prove he can be a DC for a team that looks to be among the NFL elite from season to season. Teams only reach elite status with the top Coordinators and damn good game-time decision makers in HCs.

Mularkey will show what he can do with his new gifts. Will Van Gorder? The pass rush looks to be clearly improved. The secondary now has solid veteran presence behind young talent. There are absolutely NO excuses for continued third down and big play failure.

Side Note: Will the presence of the veteran secondary players just recently signed show that this is what was needed and the coaches are not the issue….or the other way around?

just me

September 1st, 2011
12:52 am

I like that the secondary is being addressed!

Based on the preseason Owens should be the odd man out, but I bet that we try to P/S Walls and/or Bush and keep Owens. I would like to see Walls make the 53 man roster, I don’t think Walls will make it through to the P/S.

DE Stevens has had some good moments during the preseason. I say keep him or Sid, but TD probably keeps Davis and waves Sid and Stevens if he doesn’t have any P/S eligiblity left.

I think Hawley will be fine starting at center I would prefer McClure, but Hawley won’t be a pushover. And they picked up Rombery for ins. I think LT may be more of a liabilty than Hawley at Center.

I am interested to see if Edwards performs as well this year as he did last year.

I am not keen on Johnson or Smith. I see us keeping 4 RBs and 6 recievers since we are trying to become more explosive. RW, JJ, HD, Meier, who would be the other two? Kevin Cone has looked good, but they might try to put him on the P/S. Weems should be trade bait for a pick next year with Franks and Quizz able to return kicks. Harvey would be a possibility or Strickland. Maybe we just keep 5 WR and an extra CB so we don’t waive Owens, Bush, or Wall.

Maybe I’ve just been out in the Texas sun too long!!!

uga_b

September 1st, 2011
2:21 am

I mean c’mon BVG. So what Peria Jerry got injured. And William Moore. And Spoon. Your fault for Mike Peterson getting old too. Old 5th round Biermann not getting infinity million sacks; lackluster. Oh you have to rotate your best player to keep him healthy; don’t want to hear it. Not getting more out of Corey Peters who was characterized as a reach; joke. Curtis Lofton needing surgery on both knees; excuses. 4th round pick Nicholas taking so long to become a starter; unbelievable. UDFA 5′8″ CB taking so long to be a probowler; awful. Big FA signing having hamstring issues; absurd. 3rd round pick FS who plays the run first; mediocre.

And a big ole C’MON MAN for having your NCB get injured before the playoffs.

I mean, can you even name any players for the Ravens, Steelers, Bears, or Jets? Heck no, it’s just a bunch of jerseys.

On the other hand, look how successful the ole Steel Curtain blitz was in the Super Bowl against Rodgers! Held him to a pitiful 73.3% completion percentage. I am not even sure how Rodgers got the MVP.

http://www.steelersdepot.com/2011/02/pass-rush-blitz-stats-against-aaron-rodgers-defensive-breakdown/

uga_b

September 1st, 2011
2:27 am

And Mike Mularkey, only six probowlers? A 1,000 yard rusher and 1,000 yard receiver with your No. 2 WR out for 6 weeks and slot WR coming of ACL repair playing out of position. C’MON MAN.

[...] read from original news source: Final Falcons Questions as Preseason Closes | Atlanta Falcons: Bird … [...]

Willy

September 1st, 2011
3:04 am

Excellent take on things UGA_B

Big Ray

September 1st, 2011
5:18 am

uga b ,

My gosh, you’re right. I mean, those Coordinators are geniuses, the players they have just can’t keep up with them. And we all know that no player has the ability or talent to make the Pro Bowl on their own merits. Not possible. Ever. At all.

Big Ray

September 1st, 2011
5:22 am

And I’m sure that’s what was on Arthur Blank’s mind when we lost to Green Bay last season’s playoffs. Funny…the articles quoting him never said so…

Wabe

September 1st, 2011
7:28 am

uga_b

September 1st, 2011
2:21 am

——

This whole post really doesn’t fly with me. But truthfully, I’m just tired of hearing about personnel, and I’ll take into consideration that your name is uga_b.

We’ve been having this debate about BVG for a long time now. It’s not strictly personnel issues that kill us, BVG has a lot to do with that. For instance, we’re not just struggling to get off the field on 3rd downs because we have personnel problems, it may have to do something with BVG calling 3-man rushes that leave QB’s standing back in the pocket with all day to throw. Say what you want, but the Falcons defensive scheme is extremely vanilla, even with the ‘youth and speed’ that we’ve spent the last 3 seasons to acquire. How many drafts have been dedicated to revamping this defense? So why would it be wrong to assume that BVG is at least nearing the hot seat, if not already on it?

He was unproven coming into the pros, and what has he really done that speaks to him being a good fit for this job? I’m willing to wait and see, but you can’t just brush it off on the personnel anymore.

Ken Strickland

September 1st, 2011
7:36 am

I don’t see us giving up on CB COwens considering we only signed Heyden and Sanders to 1yr contracts. It’s obvious that neither of our young DB’s seized their opportunity, so this last minute move was made, by design, to give our young DB’s another yr to develop.

I believe TD and Smitty intended to give our young DB’s every chance to move up. These are signings that will have their greatest impact in the playoffs rather than during the regular season. TD has certainly made it extremely difficult for some of our fans to continue whining, complaining and crying about the depth and talent at certain positions on our DEF.

There’s not doubt that DE REdwards is an upgrade over KBiermann. There’s no doubt that CB DRobinson is a true #1 corner, as evidenced by teams choosing to target CB BGrimes more than any other CB, which allowed him to become a Probowl CB. We’re starting to see what TD and Smitty saw in DT PJerry, because when healthy he really is disruptive.

If he stays healthy, DT CPeters might not start again. There can be no more excuses for this DEF not becoming infinitely better this yr, especially against the pass and on 3rd downs. We have quality talent, speed, quickness, athleticism, depth and experience at virtually every DEF position.

Wabe

September 1st, 2011
7:47 am

Regardless of personnel flaws, what have you seen BVG do in 3 years to adjust to that?

That’s the difference between BVG and Mularkey in my book. Sure, Mularkey has been criticized on this blog. People wanna see more big plays, but look at the *personnel* he’s worked with and look at how he’s utilized the players that he’s got. Not too many guys with breakaway speed? Ok, my offense will methodically move the football down the field.

The Falcons defense though, has always been bend but don’t break. Regardless of who we have, it doesn’t make a difference. Example, we had 3 safeties last season all capable of being on the field in Moore, Coleman, and Decoud. How often did we see anything creative or new like going with a 3-deep safeties look? Might not be the brightest idea, but worth a shot? Why not? Maybe it covers up for that one safety who has a tendancy to play the run first?

There’s nothing new with BVG’s approach though. He certainly hasn’t adjusted his approach one bit, or adjusted to the personnel we have. Regardless of who we have, it’s the same deal. IE, we get a solid man corner, someone accustomed to playing man, but we’re still playing a lot of zone. Truthfully, I honestly think most coordinators could do as well with the talent we’ve had, and a handful could do better. Lets not act as if BVG’s scheme is something complex that other coordinators couldn’t put together. As if calling 3-man rushes and teaching your blitzers to overpursue everytime they blitz is mentally stifling.

Unca' Bob

September 1st, 2011
7:49 am

Ya’ know, I find it interesting that upon Ray Edward’s arrival to Atlanta’s camp this year, he couldn’t participate and so, had a lot of time to give interviews. He said the first thing he saw was the differense between the Vikes D and the Falcons D. He stated the Vikes D was vanilla and the Falcons D was complex. Which is it? I don’t think we know, do we?

Screen Pass

September 1st, 2011
8:02 am

Well put Wabe. Excuses and the “honeymoon” can only last so long. Lots of talk about Owens going on but very little about what his real problem might be. I put up a video from Owens pre-draft scouting drills last year when this same question regarding his “talent” was brought up. This video clearly shows his man to man skills which had to be the reason TD was all over him with a pick far earlier than maybe he should have gone…he was an unknown to the masses such as myself but his name wasnt unknown in NFL scouting circles, hard to say he was a reach. This brings us to the main point which is Owen’s particular skill set seems best suited as a man to man CB…not a zone type read and react guy. I find it curious a seeming large number of our “failed” cast off DB’s are finding “success” in other organizations. This does lend alot of credence to the fact that maybe BVG is not doing a good job of molding his scheme to the talent thats available and instead is trying to fit the players to his scheme regardless of the obvious shortcomings. In regards to MM not having “playmakers” in the past and therefore getting a pass…allI can say is go back and see what was said in the past. There has been plenty of firepower here, Norwood was not injured his entire stay here (even if it sure seems like it), he just wasnt utilized in the same way Quiz hasnt been utilized to his strongest suits so far. MM is guilty, tho maybe not to the same extreme of BVG, of putting his scheme above the realities of the personnel available and the oppositions scheme being employed. I dont think MM nor BVG is the worst we could do but dont kid yourself that both coordinator positions couldnt be improved or upgraded.

nes

September 1st, 2011
8:03 am

Mark it down, 1 win and 4 losses to start the season! Dunta had this hamstring problem last year and now this year. He should have really been re-habing this hamstring all of the lock out and off season! Just shows his lack of dedication and with each re-injury of this hamstring the more likely it is going to need surgery and a long rehab!!! He will not be effective in the secondary without playing time in the pre-season games and is going to be tested time after time in the games that do count! Also, if Hawley can’t play center move Mike Johnson to center, then we have a great offensive line with his size and power compared to Hawley who is smaller. He is not ready and look for Bruggleman to start or replace him. i am not going to rail-road my beloved Falcons, but the going starts off tougher and we are not ready. Blame coaching staff, that is where it falls to.

nes

September 1st, 2011
8:04 am

Sorry, replace Hawley with Bruggleman at center if we don’t move Johnson to center!

nes

September 1st, 2011
8:09 am

Screen Pass, you hit the problems of Offense and Defense right on the head! MM and BVG are average at best as Coordinators! The defense is way to complex and the Offense has no imagination or movement to confuse defenses.

Ken Strickland

September 1st, 2011
8:12 am

Outstanding coaching, or the lack of it, has been both the strength and weakness of the Falcons. We have an OL coach who’s turned UFA’s into quality starters and Probowlers, and successfully cross trained draft picks into starting quality linemen is short order. Except for OT SBaker and OG MJohnson, he’s done this with UFA’s and low draft picks.

On the other hand, DC BVanGorder has been the beneficiary of some quality FA signings and high draft picks, and our DEF has continued to have the same problems yr after yr. We have one of the NFL’s premier pass rushing DE’s in JAbraham, and one of the NFL’s premier pass rushing DT’s in JBabineaux. Yet, we still have problems rushing the passer.

There are DC’s who don’t have these 2 pass rushing luxuries, yet they’ve managed to get a more consistent pass rush than us. That’s because these DC’s have a scheme and/or coaching approach that takes full advantage of the talent they do have, and we don’t.

Look, all LB’s fall into 2 categories, and that’s OLB and ILB, or MLB. Some are 3-4 LB’s and some are 4-3 LB’s, and theres a tremendous difference between the 2. The same situation exists among DB’s, as some are better suited to playing zone and others are better suited to playing man to man. They are seldom able to excel at playing both.

The type of talent TD has put together is better suited to playing man to man, based on the overall speed, quickness, athleticism, and reputations of these players. Yet, our DC insists on forcing them to play a cover 2 zone, or some variation of it. As a result, we’ve been unable to generate a decent and consistent pass rush, overall pass DEF, or get off the field on 3rd down, especially on 3rd and long.

HJones

September 1st, 2011
8:20 am

I am anxiously waiting for the Chicago game. I hope I am not disappointed with the offense. It is the same feeling I had prior to every game for the past two years. Answers for player transactions and movement will occur, but the BIG ANSWER will not arrive until September 11.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
8:55 am

Good morning Cage Family…..a lot to cover this morning as D3 went off on the keyboard last night. I know the brother loves the game but after this post, will he have any energy left for his Falcons and Dawgs this weekend? LOL…just kidding, my brother.

Here come the TeePee Sports assessment of your questions…..settle in, going to take a little while.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
8:59 am

Main question…Are the Birds ready to go? Yes, they are. While problems remain in certain areas, I think that this is still a playoff team with significant upside. Let me be clear here. The team HAS significant upside. Work remains but this is a playoff team that could, COULD, make a deep push if a few things fall into place. The most significant of those things, secondary leadership and depth, have been address in the last 48 hours. Now, we investors await the returns.

As I stated yesterday, in Sanders and Hayden, you get a pair of Acura TLs for the price of a Honda Civic. Great value while filling a crucial need.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:08 am

Stout Secondary? I will not say it is stout but it has significantly changed in the last 48 hours. The two Acuras will definately give us great value and experience as they move into their respective roles this season. I know that there will be those that are concern about possible injury histories but these guys are veterans; they know how to rehab, they both come from organizations that have excellent staffs, and they are football players. They came to the ATL for a reason; very confident that TD made it clear to them that there was a role for them here and they quickly bought into the Process.

Grimes, Hayden, Franks, Sanders, Moore. Locks to be kept.

You noticed I left out on key name…Robinson. Yes he will be kept. But it is clear to me that this guy is not what we thought we were getting when we signed him. It appears that he can not stay healthy and could be a significant liability going forward. Hayden will most likely spend a lot of time as the nickel but he is also going to see time in Robinson’s (the Fragile One) place.

INHO, Chris Owens is done as a Falcon. In three years, he has regressed and IMHO, does not show enuf to be kept in the mix. The acquistion of bigger CB (six footers in Walls and Hayden) do not help his cause at this time. Send him on his way..

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:12 am

Davis or Sidbury? I do not think the Falcons will release either of them. They will roll with Abe, Edwards, Biermann, Davis, Sidbury, and Matthews. Depth is crucial here. As much as I love Abe, he is prone to injury and is getting long in tooth. He still brings it, a very good thing, but he will have to be spelled in order to ensure we have him when the stretch run occurs. The same can be said of Edwards. Young and talented, a quality #2 that is ascending, he is a clone of Abe. Depth and experience comes in the rotational element that Biermann and Davis give us. Both of them will possibly be released next spring. Matthews and Sidbury are the feature and with more time on the field, special teams ability, and continuing work with the Sugar Bear, I see nothing but promise in them. In the case of Sidbury, I will say this. The transition from 1-AA to the NFL takes awhile. But there is a pep in his step this season that I do not think we will let get away.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:15 am

Hawley Ready? Yes. I have observed this young man in action. He parked himself into the back pocket of McClure, becoming a sponge. He has worked hard at his craft and I think is ready to step up. Will he have a few issues? Sure he will. But this one is a good deal and I have faith in the fact that Coach Boudreau and MR2 have faith in Big Joe.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:19 am

Turner Ready? Again, I have no issues here. The Big Man will get his 1000+ yards, his 9-11 TDs. Mad Mike will work him into his usual, ball control, drive sustaining element. The acquisition of Rodgers is a legit gold mind. Our “Kevin Faulk” is more than ready. One more year in the conditioning program, a five to 10 pound weight gain, and Rodgers could legitly challenge as a starter. He has that talent but most importantly, he has that heart.

Reminds me of a little dude I loved as a Seminole, Falcon, and yes, even a Buc. They told him he was too small too; but as they say, the rest was history.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:22 am

The End of an Era. Not the end, but the sand is moving easily through the hourglass. TG88 will be a nice option. To expect any more than 500 – 700 yards and 6 TDs this season is a reach. But he is a chain mover, a secure receiver, and an excellent mentor/teacher. He will still be a significant force in our attack.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:27 am

Edwards…a very fine and solid #2 defensive end. He will provide an excellent compliment ot Abe. He also becomes the future cornerstone of the DE corps as Abe, like TG88,is seeing the sands of the hourglass flow.

My stat line is simple. 40 to 60 tackles, 7-10 sacks. That would be fine with me. And that would be a SIGNFICANT boast in terms of applied pressure from our DL.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:29 am

LB Depth….Love it!! I love the trio of Weatherspoon, Nicholas, and Lofton. Everyone knows I love myself some Sean Weatherspoon. And I have been screaming for a more active Nicholas presence. And Lofton is showing some signs of improvement in pass defense (any would be good, LOL). I love this young core. I am scared as hell though when it comes to depth. We will have to work on that.

Adkins, James….three years, NOTHING. Time to find some real depth.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:35 am

QB depth. Not really an issue this season but we will have to address it next spring. Redman and JP Wilson will both be FAs. Honestly, I think we need to look elsewhere, get younger at the position, and find a young talent to groom as our #2.

Keep an eye on Joe Webb in Minnesota. He has a ton of upside and would make a fine backup QB here. Ponder is the future there and who know how much is left in the tank of McNabb. If Webb is released, I say grab him. One other name to watch; keep an eye on Wisconsin QB and former NCSU quarterback Russell Wilson. He could be a draft pick.

SeminoleWarrior

September 1st, 2011
9:37 am

Dunta’s hammy? No comment. I have not been a fan of this acquisition from day one. I think he is seriously overrated, overpaid, and not the “premier” CB we were lead to believe. I think Hayden will be in play a lot more than just being the nickel back in ATL this season.