Will Dimitroff Take Risks or Play It Safe on Offense?

Time for Quizz to Get a Large Role? (AJC)

The Atlanta Falcons and their fans enter a very intriguing off-season. On one hand, this regime is by far the most productive in franchise history, making the playoffs 3 of the last 4 years. However, they are also 0-3 in the postseason, with the last two being embarrassing blowouts. Add to that the issue of 17 players set to become free agents, and this is by far the most unpredictable off-season in recent memory.

GM Thomas Dimitroff could decide that only a few tweaks are in order to get over the playoff hump, or he could take this opportunity to dramatically remake the Falcons roster for the forseeable future. In other words, Dimitroff could decide to “play it safe” or “take some risks” in regards to several positions on the roster.

Quarterback

This ones still a year or two away from making an assessment. Although the majority of fans still believe Matt Ryan is the franchise QB, there are some who think all that ails the Falcons is the quarterback. He does need to win in the postseason to quell the minority.

The Falcons don’t have the luxury of drafting a quarterback to groom with only a handful of draft picks in this years draft. Although its nice to have a veteran backup, the Falcons need to start grooming a young quarterback that could take over for Matt Ryan or even be in a position to move that quarterback in a trade. The Texans, Eagles, and Packers are only a few examples of teams developing young quarterbacks and have earned picks for them (Eagles – Kolb) or probably could in the future (Texans – TJ Yates, Packers – Matt Flynn).

Running Back

Safe Route

Time to Part with Turner? (AJC)

This one seems the most likely. Even though many fans are clamoring to get more dynamic at running back, it hasn’t appeared to be in TD’s DNA to cut or trade big name veterans like Michael Turner. Throw in the fact that Coach Smith loves his power backs and its most likely the only change fans will see is more of a split in carries with Jacquizz Rodgers and perhaps an inclusion of a 3rd RB such as Antone Smith or new draft pick. Ken Strickland had a great idea of keeping Jason Snelling and moving him to fullback, but its unlikely both Turner and Snelling will be splitting carries again in 2012.

Risky Route

As mentioned above, it seems unlikely that Dimitroff will make a big change in the backfield for 2012, but it is a possibility. One of the biggest weaknesses of the Birds offense was its high predictability in its slow, methodical running game. If the front office wanted to take some risks to get more dynamic in the running game.

With the advent of early success from rookie running backs, the likelihood of the Falcons getting much of anything at all for Turner is very low. How many teams will want to take on a 30 year old running back that has shown major signs of slowing down, doesn’t have a burst, and will cost over $5 million dollars against the cap? They may could swing a 4th or 5th round pick, but even that seems unlikely. If they want to part ways with Turner, they will probably just have to cut him outright.

Assuming they couldn’t get any draft picks in return, they would probably be forced to go with a rotation of Snelling, Rodgers, and either Antone Smith or a late round pick / undrafted free agent for a year until they could spend a higher pick on RB in 2013.

With their other needs and fairly limited cap space, its also highly unlikely they would venture into free agency for a running back. On paper, it would seem a major risk to part with Turner, but considering all three backs would be assets in the pass game, a step quicker in the run game, and saving between $5 – $7 million in cap space, its not that far-fetched. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Wide Receiver

Safe Route

This one’s a little reversed. Although it would require the Falcons to spend money to keep Harry Douglas, this would by far be the safer route when it comes to offensive weapons in the pass game. It may be tough to keep Douglas as a slot receiver and a contract close to $3 million a year might be required, but if you consider the stability going forward, and more importantly the risks in not keeping him, it simply makes too much sense to keep him.

Douglas was a TD draft pick and he’s shown he can play given the chances, which were rare under Mularkey’s play-calling. He has speed, good hands, and an excellent ability of running after the catch. A contract to keep him here would be as much to keep him here as a slot as it would be to be Roddy White’s heir apparent, or at least the chance to compete for that spot. Given Whites age (30), recent drops, and his penchant for spouting off on Twitter, its a no-brainer. Finally, are you comfortable with Eric Weems or Kerry Meier taking over as a #2 WR if Roddy or Julio were injured?

Risky Route

Risky to Let HD Go? (AJC)

The Falcons may either not be willing or able to keep Harry Douglas in Atlanta and suddenly one of the Falcons greatest strengths could turn to a thin weakness. If they allow Douglas to leave, Eric Weems seems most likely to take over the vacated slot position. Despite his good work on special teams, Weems has never proven to be an asset in the pass game. Perhaps its not all his fault playing under Mularkey, but the fact is still unchanged.

Kerry Meier has been injured both years he’s been in Atlanta and can’t really be counted on. Not to mention, like Weems, he’s never produced in the pass game. After Weems and Meier, there’s nothing more than practice squad potential that would simply be lucky to earn a roster spot.

Would it make much sense to go out and spend money on another receiver in free agency when there are so many other pressing needs? And they probably would spend more than Douglas anyway. Finally, in case you haven’t heard, the Falcons only have 2 draft picks in the first 4 rounds this year, and spending an early draft pick on a receiver seems preposterous.

Tight End

Safe Route

Like wide receiver, tight end is a little reversed in terms of what’s safe and what’s risky. The safe route actually is for Dimitroff and Co. to go ahead and draft Tony Gonzalez’s heir apparent with either the 2nd or 3rd draft pick at his disposal. Some of the best tight ends in the game were all taken in the 2nd (Rob Gronkowski), 3rd (Jimmy Graham), and 4th (Aaron Hernandez). Even though offensive line is by far the biggest need, the Falcons front office will have to address some of that in free agency. The would leave the 2nd round pick for an offensive lineman (likely an OC or OG) and the 3rd round pick for a tight end to groom under Gonzalez for a year.

There are a ton of guys who should be available either in the 2nd or 3rd round when the Falcons finally do pick. If they want to anger a lot of fans and pick in the 2nd, they could have Coby Fleener, Orson Charles, or Dwayne Allen and if they’d do the correct thing and take an OL in the 2nd round, they’d still probably have a chance at Ladarius Green or Michael Egnew. The point is that it’s less risky to go ahead and draft your heir apparent than leave it up to chance and have to go through the process all over again in 2013. Michael Palmer is definitely in the Falcons future, but he also hasn’t shown that he’s anything more than an excellent #2 tight end, at least so far.

Risky Route

Tight end Tony Gonzalez

Can Birds Afford to Wait Another Year on TE? (AJC)

The Falcons front office could choose to pass on selecting a tight end this year and just roll the dice for 2013 after Tony Gonzalez’s likely imminent retirement. As mentioned earlier, Michael Palmer has shown good hands and decent potential in limited chances, but he’s also not shown that he is ready to take on the full-time starting role left behind when Gonzalez decides to hang up his cleats.

Dimitroff has drafted for almost every single position during his time in Atlanta, but one of the only ones he hasn’t legitimately drafted for is tight end (he signed Michael Palmer as an undrafted free agent and took Keith Zinger in the 7th round). It’s hard to say that not drafting a player amounts to a risk, but what are the Falcons waiting on if they pass once again in trying to find Gonzalez’s replacement?

Offensive Line

Safe Route

Again, this one will seem reversed in terms of what should be risky and what should be safe. The idea of spending money or draft picks on players to solidify a position or create competition seems ludicrous. The exception comes into play with the Atlanta Falcons current offensive line. The Falcons offensive line has been ignored in terms of talent infusion, essentially since Thomas Dimitroff has been general manager.

Yes, he’s drafted Sam Baker in the first, Mike Johnson in the third, Joe Hawley in the fourth, and Garrett Reynolds in the fourth, among several others, but he has not hit on one offensive lineman to date that is a cog for the future on the Falcons offensive line. He re-signed Tyson Clabo and Justin Blalock as future mainstays on the offensive line (both drafted or signed under different regimes). Left tackle, one of the guard spots, and the center positions are completely unsettled.

Even though new offensive line coach Pat Hill is expected to add some help with a new scheme and new techniques, the fact still remains that offensive line has been one of the most ignored in terms of talent. Dimitroff has already said that all OL positions will be open for competition and the safest route will be to infuse some new talent to compete with what’s already there. The Falcons will almost definitely spend some money on offensive line free agents, particularly looking at left tackles such as Marcus McNeill, Anthony Collins, or Demetrius Bell. The vast majority of left tackles are drafted and developed in the NFL, not taken and inserted with a late 2nd round draft pick.

If the Birds want to get really adventurous in free agency on the OL, they may even go after an offensive guard as well. With the money they’re expected to have, it’s conceivable they could also entertain potential names like guards Ben Grubbs or Evan Mathis. Considering how many free agents they need/want to re-sign, it makes the most sense to spend their first pick on guard to add to the competition mix. The Falcons offensive line has overachieved for the last 4 years and it’s simply the safest route to finally infuse new talent to the position in many different ways.

Risky Route

Be Nice to Protect Ryan for a Change (AP)

Again, it doesn’t seem to make sense talking about not spending money as the risky route to go in the off-season, but it does apply to the Falcons offensive line. The Falcons front office can decide to stay put with the players they have and hope a new offensive line coach and new scheme can make all the difference with the current players.

Even though Joe Hawley seems to be a legitimate candidate of the Falcons OL future, Mike Johnson never got a truly good look due to injury, and Will Svitek did very well in relief of Sam Baker at left tackle, to not significantly upgrade the talent on the offensive line would likely be a failed strategy.

They may decide to only add a few or even one piece to the offensive line either in the from of a single draft pick or only one OL free agent, open the competition to all spots, and hope that does the trick. Again, there seems to be no downside into “overdoing” the offensive line this time around.

Dimitroff re-upped Blalock and Clabo to legitimate contracts, but he has yet to hit on one offensive lineman in the draft or free agency that is a lock to be a part of the Falcons offensive line going forward. If they decide to go piecemeal or safe regarding the offensive line, it could be a major mistake, even if that means not bringing back Brent Grimes and John Abraham, who will be commanding insanely high salaries.

Bird Cage Faithful’s Turn

1) Should the Falcons play it safe or take risks on offense this off-season?

2) Is it time to draft a QB to push Matt Ryan?

3) Play it safe or take some risks concerning the running backs?

4) Bring back HD or let him walk?

5) Draft a tight end early this year or pass until next year?

6) Piecemeal or major infusion of talent on the offensive line?

608 comments Add your comment

Die Hard Falcon

February 20th, 2012
4:59 pm

Great Post D3–

1)I think they’ll need to take some risks, depending on how you look at it, but overall, I believe the majority of change should be on the OL.

2)I am definitely in the majority, I am committed to Matt Ryan and believe that he’s a top 10 QB, nothing to worry about except getting him protection.

3)I would say if we can get a 4th rd pick or higher for Turner, then make the trade and resign Snelling and take an RB in a late rd or undrafted.

4)I say bring back HD, then we have a legitimate 3-headed monster, arguably one of the best WR corps in the league.

5)I am in the camp that believes a TE needs to be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round, I am leaning toward Stanford’s Fleener, at least he’s a decent blocker.

6) OL needs 2 pieces in my mind. Get Grubbs or Nicks in FA and possibly McNeill if the price is right, and w/ the limited draft, we’ll probably have to roll w/ that and make it open competition.

Go Falcons!

Die Hard Falcon

February 20th, 2012
5:00 pm

BTW — First!

Dan

February 20th, 2012
5:02 pm

Sign Jared Gaither and Ben Grubbs. Draft Orson Charles or Colby Fleener in the second round. Draft Chris Polk RB Washington or Ben Jones C from UGA in 3rd round

Die Hard Falcon

February 20th, 2012
5:02 pm

I would add about the RB situation, if the Panthers (who are very strapped against the cap) release Jonathan Stewart, we should get him.

Fanatic Falcon Fan (F3)

February 20th, 2012
5:11 pm

I think they may be forced to play in safe, not that many sure fire available FA’s in areas of need, and the draft will be a challange this year with fewer pieces (even with comp picks)

Fanatic Falcon Fan (F3)

February 20th, 2012
5:13 pm

I think they only draft a QB if they get a trade that works for Redman or JPW.

Greg

February 20th, 2012
5:13 pm

I say take it safe in every category aside from running back. Getting rid of that cap space from Turner would allow us a lot more room in FA.

Matt Ryan is the best QB in franchise history, and we need to stop looking at him like he is the ugly stepchild of the team. Give him a good line, he can be great. He has done a lot with a very bad offensive line.

I say keep HD. I doubt many teams will give him #1 or #2 receiver money once they look at him on tape and how he played as a starting receiver for the Falcons. I really like him in the slot, and would expect to see him back.

Take the TE in the draft! There is a huge influx of talent at this position coming in this year, and even if another position is addressed with the 2nd round pick, there is still going to be a good solid receiving TE available in the 3rd. Draft the TE, run more 2TE sets with two legitimate receiving TEs, and maybe some of Gonzalez will rub off on the new guy.

Major infusion of talent. If this Falcons team is truly in a “Win now” mode, we can’t wait until 2013 to have a 1st round pick we can use on the next Joe Thomas or Jake Long. This is something that we can realistically do in free agency, and is necessary or we will continue to only put 2 points on the board in the playoffs. Skill position talent is there; o-line talent is not.

Fanatic Falcon Fan (F3)

February 20th, 2012
5:13 pm

Draft a TE, but I thought they would draft a TE the past two years, so I know nothing.

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Fanatic Falcon Fan (F3)

February 20th, 2012
5:15 pm

They will need a FB, even if backup, it is critical for pass protection and the running game, and Ovie seems to have become too expensive to keep considering his injuries and age.

SavDawg

February 20th, 2012
5:32 pm

On offence we need to concentrate on OL. We need more than one. I can’t believe the OL coach can make that much difference in what we witnessed in the last few years.
I agree with most Turner needs to go.
Talk TG into one more yr.
As far as QB we need an experiencd QB as back up someone w/ proven track record
like miami did with earl morrel.

Smoove Criminal

February 20th, 2012
6:07 pm

I’m in agreement with with Die Hard Falcon fan. HD needs to be brought back to give us a great trio of WRs, and as the article stated there is an extreme dropoff as far as skill and talent goes after him.

I also think this is the year to draft a TE who could take over for Tony G when he retires at year’s end. I’d lean towards Coby Fleener myself because he can catch the ball as well as block if he needs too. Orson Charles is a pretty good pass catching TE but he proved during his years at UGA that he couldn’t even pass as a marginally decent pass blocking TE

Paddy O

February 20th, 2012
6:41 pm

I’d lean for safety and stability, especially since we have fewer high round draft picks than typical, and our cap space, considering the number of open roster spots (especially starter spots), is problematic. I’d resign most of our FA’s, find the best quality LT out there, and try to draft well. I would not be surprised if RD 2 is a TE, then a S, then some development guys. We may see some fairly high paid guys released (NOT including Dunta), so that would give us some more space. We shall see.

big ED

February 20th, 2012
6:41 pm

If they can get a 3rd or 4th for Turner then that should be a done deal. They need as many picks as possible. Signing Snelling and using Rogers more would more than make up for Turner’s loss. Also hold off on signing Abe and see what can happen in free agency. Hard to pick up good tackles in free agency but you can get quality interior guys. This team is weak up the middle and could improve greatly with a few shrewd business deal from TD. Not holding my breathe.

uga_b

February 20th, 2012
6:45 pm

I personally do not understand why you waste a draft pick this year on a 3rd TE. That would be over drafting an OG, CB, S or other need position. We are not switching to a New England offense with the speed outside. Also, Shannon Sharpe was taken in the 7th round.

You keep HD for a reasonable price. Gives you the explosion over the middle of the field you don’t have otherwise. I think Weems will probably return because we have to draft Meier’s replacement.

We keep Turner since you can’t trade him and why take the cap hit. Snelling can take over at FB or leave. Doesn’t make sense to keep him as a 3 unless he accepts the Earnest Graham role.

On OL, you go sign a tackle and draft a guard high and then take another T/G depending on how you view Reynolds longterm.

Ken Strickland

February 20th, 2012
6:54 pm

We’re not going to draft a LT that’s capable of starting right away with the picks we have, and there certainly aren’t any long term solutions available at LT in FA. Therefore, we should sign a FA LT that can get us to next yrs draft. A new blocking scheme and blocking techniques, as well a a totally different OFF approach, just might allow either MJohnson or AJackson, who played under OL coach in college, to excel at RG.

Svitek excelled as SBaker’s replacement at LT until he wore down near the end of the season. With Koetter definitely installing a more pass oriented OFF, a more extended rushing OFF, and a blocking scheme that’s more technique oriented than brute strength oriented, wearing down might not be as much of an issue for our OLinemen.

How can we expect help from an OLineman taken in this yrs draft, and hopefully developed to take over a starting position, sooner rather than later, when we have yet to properly utilize the OLinemen we’ve already drafted and developed? I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see us take the riskiest and cheapest route by looking to our current roster to solve our RG issue, rather than signing a high priced FA. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if we signed an inexpensive short term solution at LT to compete with Svitek.

There definitely aren’t any long term solutions available at LT. We’ll definitely get a supplemental pick in next yrs draft for any of the 3 top FAs that we don’t resign, namely DE JAbraham, CB BGrimes, and MLB CLofton. That would add anywhere from 1 to 3 additional picks to next yrs compliment of picks.

Joshua Malavenda

February 20th, 2012
7:13 pm

I would go the pretty safe route in most of the catergories.

I would sign solali and kendal langford to shore up our dl and resign bierman for his versatility. I would try to sign abs to lowered renegoited one year contract as a situational blitzer and mentor to to younger de. I would also give sidebury and matthews more reps in the season.

I would resign hd

I would draft a replacement for gonzo

I would also sign grubbs and collins in fa

I would let baker go

I would peria jerry go

I would keep turner but I would draft a replacement also

I would let mughelli go and sign Mike tolbert as his replacement and his versatility because you could also give him reps at rb and he has great hands.

I am not really sure what I would do with ryan replacement question but do know I would give him some protection so he can have time to throw the ball.

Adrian

February 20th, 2012
7:21 pm

Turner has one more year on contract. So he ain’t going anywhere. He’s done to much for Atlanta just to trade for a late draft pick. I say get ol in free agency. Hopefully LT BELL! . Lets get D on draft day.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
7:41 pm

What’s Happening Cage Family…

D3, you continue to roll gem after gem out and into the print media. Great topic…will be back in a little while to begin my commentary on the subject matter.

big ED

February 20th, 2012
7:54 pm

Saying that Turner has done too much for Atlanta to trade him is silly. You look to trade a player when there is still some value. You are also getting younger with the picks that might have upside in the future. I promise you the boys in New England never said lets keep this guy b/c he has done a lot for us. I agree with Strickland about the LT pos. Interior guys and hope we can find a temp at LT. Back to Turner.. I think his salary is over 7 mil and cap hit is 4-5. You can do a lot with that savings.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:04 pm

Will TD take risks or will he play it safe on offense in 2012?

In TD I trust. And in that regard, perhaps I am one of the few that think that issues with the Atlanta Falcons were more the result of a disconnect between Mike Smith and Mike Murlarkey than any other reason that has been afforded to us by the brass at the Branch.

Offensively, the key components are in place. We have a quarterback that we can trust, a running back that is solid as they come, a pair of WRs that are among the league’s best, and a TE that is already having his bust cut for Canton. There are a few areas where we need to develop some depth and we can do that via the draft and in a limited FA role this season.

What I desire for the Falcons this season, this offseason, is a SOLID approach that strengthens the team in this transition year, 2012, the year that starts the Process, Part II.

So with that as my preface, here is the TeePee’s assessment.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:08 pm

First, the Falcons are set at the quarterback position. MR2 is well on his way to being a very good NFL quarterback. I do not give a rat’s @$$ is he is considered elite or not. I simply want him to be a leader on this team and make the plays needed at the critical QB position. And I am confident that he will do that. He has gotten better with each season he has been in ATL and I see no reason to think that anything, short of an injury, will stop his progression.

Backup QB is a key point. I have not seen enjoy of John Parker Wilson to feel comfortable with him as the number two QB. I think Redman can be had back for a reasonable pay cut OR we can bring in a veteran who knows DK’s offensive thoughts. David Garrard could be a cheap option as a #2.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:14 pm

Second, Michael Turner is not going anywhere. He IS the ATL rushing attack and he is here to stay for at least another year or two. Get used to it. He will see his carries reduced as DK will give more time to hopefully Snelling and Rodgers as options backs/receivers in the intermediate and/or screen game. But as far as the “GROUND CHUCK” aspect of the game, it will be Turner. And if that groin is completely healthy, Turner is still among the best in the NFL.

Rodgers will excel as a third down back and receiving option. Same with Snelling. Snelling will be back in the ATL for the market simply has not unfolded for him in the way he would have wished. And that is a good thing for us. He could be an excellent option to both Turner at RB as well as Mike Cox at FB. Depth is critical and Snelling fills two positions in one shot. He is a must keep at a very reasonable cost.

Personal note: Antone Smith is near and dear to my heart. But other than special team work, I can not see him breaking rotation ahead of Snelling and/or Rodgers. Love his heart but even for a fellow Nole, I think it is time to move on and let Antone look elsewhere.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:17 pm

Third, Harry Douglas is a MUST keep. The effective use of the intermediate game has been the MISSING LINK for the Falcons offense and especially, quarterback Matt Ryan. DK has let it be known that he want to use the intermediate game as well as the screen to open things up for the passing attack. Snelling and Rodgers will be tremendous in this approach; Douglas and Jones would be just as effective. Other than White, Jones, and Douglas, you have nothing more than a wish and several prayers at WR. You can not let Douglas get away. And honestly, the Falcons need to address WR depth at some time very soon.

DePlane

February 20th, 2012
8:19 pm

D3…well done as usual sir. Hope you and the fam are back to feeling 100%.

I’ll let the cage stalwarts respond to your post, as I have little to offer than regurgitated speculation at this point…I’m a little numb from reading opinions all over the place. I will say I still think the LT is the primary need on o-line and of course RG is a continued question mark. I do think we should resign Mud Duck to mentor Hawley and for insurance. Noting your point on the limited LT available in FA we may indeed get a one year stop gap.

Great stuff!

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:20 pm

Fourth, tight end has to be addressed ASAP. The band aid that is the one year extension of TG88 is not going to help this team going forward. Unless TD has a free agent TE in his future plans in 2013, we have to take a look at the position in the draft this year. And honestly, all available TEs are a bit of a risk. But we have nothing after TG88. Mike Palmer has not shown the consistency you would want from an heir apparent. And if you can name any other Falcons TE without breaking out your media guide, you are MUCH better than me.

DePlane

February 20th, 2012
8:21 pm

Yep…HD is a must keep.

DePlane

February 20th, 2012
8:25 pm

SW…greetings to you sir, hope all is well. I always thought AS has what it takes to be an productive NFL back…but he hasn’t had much of a chance here. If he goes somewhere else I think they’ll be getting a great value who will shine when given a chance.

DePlane

February 20th, 2012
8:27 pm

SW…I can name Reggie Kelly…but we both know he is primarily taking up space better used elsewhere.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:34 pm

And finally, fifth. Now the biggest risk. The offensive line.

I think that myself and my partner in crime, K Strick, are the only ones that are drinking from this cup. I am going to say that the OL remains in tact for the most part this season with two key exceptions.

First, I do think that the LT situation will be addressed in free agency. My prayer is that it is NOT Marcus McNeil. I would rather keep Sam Baker at the position. McNeil is clearly not what he used to be and his injuries, neck and back, are nothing more than what he have endured with Baker. So why pay for the same tangible result. This would be a MAJOR mistake.

Second, a scheme change would work wonders I think for the Falcons. I am hoping that Pat Hill will implement a zone blocking scheme similiar to what he has been using at Fresno State for years with success. The scheme is very solid in both pass and rushing attacks. And the Falcons have the core needed to install and begin the implementation of said scheme. Which leads me back to the LT point. Of the available LTs, I think that the Falcons should pursue Anthony Collins. He is young, has a lot of experience at the LT position against some premier pass rushers (AFC North), and he would come at a very cap friendly price. This signing is a no brainer!!

Third, if healthy, I look for G Andrew Jackson to make things interesting at that position. Being a student of Pat Hill gives him an edge and hopefully, an attitude to return to the posture that had him on his way to being a top draft pick before a senior campaign marred in injury. Another one to watch is Mike Johnson…if healthy, what can he be? Beginning to wonder if he is not another SEC overrate like Peria Jerry….not in the sense of what they can be but in the sense that the injuries simply do not warrant the long term investment.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:42 pm

DePlane, I love Anthone. But just can not see him breaking into the mix. LIke Rodgers, Smith is not an every down back that can stand up to an NFL pounding. That is why in terms of size, we need to keep Snelling for at least one more year. It will all come down to how many RBs the Falcons want to carry on the roster.

Reggie Kelly….see ya!! Do not know why you were even in the mix!!

JB FALCON

February 20th, 2012
8:45 pm

SW, with you and KS on the same team. do you have room for another? So far your posts have been spot on.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:50 pm

Again, I want to make my point clear. I think that the issues with this offense were more the result of a disconnect between the Mikes….Smith and Murlarkey.

This offensive unit, despite its issues in BIG games, has been for the most part, productive. Our young QB has improved each year of his career thus far. MT33 has been among the leagues top rushers each year he has been in ATL. RW84 and TG88 have been constants at the highest level.
The young Julio Jones, despite injuries, showed why TD felt the need to move up and get him as he had 8 TDs, nearly 1000 yards receiving, and showed some serious upside.

The offensive line, much maligned all season long, but also unstable due to injuries and weak depth, still supported an effective offensive attack.

This offense is not as back as most think it is. Quite the contrary…as we will save for another discussion on where TD needs to take risks.

HINT: It was the reason the Nolan hire was so critical.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
8:51 pm

JB Falcon, come on down…we have room for you to roll with us.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
9:05 pm

I see that some are giving Jared Gaither so much love in here as a possible FA solution. He is in the same boat as McNeil and Baker as far as I am concerned. What makes him any more special than Sam? And Sam has more start as has been actually, MORE productive, than Gaither.

D3

February 20th, 2012
9:41 pm

Great Monday Night Cage Fam! — Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Die Hard — Agree with you on all points. Only thing I’ll slightly disagree with is big name, big money guys like Nicks, Mario Williams, and the like. I think we’ll be more useful to spend money on the guys just below the big names like Anthony Collins, Demetrius Bell, and yes, I agree that Marcus McNeil wouldn’t be bad for the right price. The great thing is that Will Svitek has proven he’s capable of taking over if need be. Granted, he may not be a Joe Thomas or Jake Long, but he CAN get the job done.

Dan — I like that. I really like the Grubbs idea. Gaither is full of potential, but his work ethic, etc. may not be in line with the “Falcons Way.” You’re right though if we get an LT and OG in free agency, that frees up a lot of possibilities for the draft.

F3 — Welcome to the Cage! (love the handle-name, btw). Sure hate not having more than 2 draft picks in the first 4 rounds.

Greg — Agreed on all points. I also heartily concur that it’s high time to infuse talent on the OL. As I mentioned in the post, there’s little downside to “overdoing it” on the OL. If Andrew Jackson or Mike Johnson or Joe Hawley or Will Svitek beat out a guy like Ben Grubbs or Marcus McNeil or Anthony Collins, than so be it. Relying on a rag-tag OL should finally be out of the question.

D3

February 20th, 2012
9:54 pm

SavDawg — Agreed on OL. Relying purely on a new OL coach (who hasn’t been keyed on the position itself in a long time) is a recipe for disaster.

Smoove — Welcome to the Cage if its first time in Cage. I like Coby Fleener a lot, too. I am completely torn between whether to go best available OG (Cordy Glenn, Kevin Zeitler) or TE (Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Orson Charles). As a UGA grad and fan, I actually like Fleener better than Charles. Charles is not the game-breaker that many think he is, at least IMO.

Paddy — Great points. You’re right. The limited draft picks has really boxed us in this year in terms of being “risky or dramatic.” I think Safety is one of those positions (like RB) that will have to put off a year due to our limited draft picks. William Moore, Thomas DeCoud, and James Sanders are good enough to get it done under Nolan’s new scheme. Maybe a 5th or 6th rounder.

D3

February 20th, 2012
10:00 pm

big ED — Welcome my friend. I don’t think Turner is going anywhere, unfortunately. I wish we could get something from him, but I can’t imagine anyone taking on his $5+ million salary.

uga_b — Totally agree on the idea of taking an LT in free agency and using 2nd round pick on best available OG. Also great point on Snelling. The market is going to be insanely low for him this year. Cut Ovie and his nearly $4 million salary, re-sign Snelling, insert him in @ FB, and save money. Win-win-win across the board.

Ken Strickland

February 20th, 2012
10:00 pm

SEMINOLE WARRIOR-I wouldn’t classify OG MJohnson as injury prone like Jerry at this point. To my knowledge he’s only had that concusion, and before that happened, he had started to outperform GReynolds in their battle for the starting RG position last yr. This will be the 1st yr that OT WSvitek has gone into the off season as our incumbent LT. With him knowing he’ll have a chance to retain his incumbent status.

After last yrs experience, there’s no telling how hard he’ll work this off season to improve his chance of remaining our starting LT. With our new OFF approach and new blocking scheme, he just might end up being the short term LT solution that we need to take us to the next draft.

falcon21

February 20th, 2012
10:06 pm

Thank you D3 for your O-line comment, that covers it. Most know what I think about the rag tag bunch we have and it has got to be improved or we will never see the next level. We can’t use gimmicks to cover for this weak O-line, we need talent now. Matt is a tough man but it’s time to protect him.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
10:13 pm

K Strick, Johnson has had issue with a foot injury, a concussion, back issues, and his knee.

I, for one, did not put a lot into his battle with Reynolds at the guard position because Johnson had the advantage of being a guard for most of his collegiate career while Reynolds was transitioning for the first time to the guard position. Reynolds appears to be a career backup at this stage to me.

Svitek may be the answer at LT in a ZBS which would maximize his talents over his strength needs.

Will see…but that is what I think will be the deal. I am still convinced, as you are I think, that the transition to some facet of a ZBS/WCO combination is in the works.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
10:29 pm

Scheme…the issue in ATL was scheme. This cross training crap did not work and it came to a head on the OL last season. Injuries left us hole in the bag and we did not have the depth to step it up as we needed.

Again, with the exception of Dahl, 80% of the starting core of the OL was in place in 2011. Injuries and poor scheme were the major contributors to the “decay” of our OL performance in 2011. And once more, that scheme is a direct reflection of the disconnect between the Mikes.

Reynolds is a natural RT and needs to be given serious consideration there. That would allow Clabo to move inside and resolve the size issue inside. Hawley is a natural center and would be fine long term there. That would also allow us some time as we develop remaining OL personnel while look ahead to next year’s draft and FA when we have better options.

Again, scheme and managerial common sense are critical.

D3

February 20th, 2012
10:40 pm

Ken — Totally agree on Mike Johnson. He NEVER had injury issues at Alabama. In fact, he owns the record for most starts for any player in Alabama Football history. He just got that concussion early on and never gained traction in the battle for guard. As I’ve said before, there is no harm in signing a few OL players, drafting a few, and having an all out competition for 3 spots (LT, C, RG) and may the best men win.

falcon21 — I know I fought it for a long, long time, but I’m an official “build the OL” convert. Thanks for having me aboard. Would you rather go for LT and OG in free agency or sign one of the two and spend the 2nd round pick on best available OG. I’m liking Cordy Glenn or Kevin Zeitler. Even though I like the guards bigger (330+ lbs), a lot of the bigger guys like Kelechi Osemele (353), Brandon Washington (325), and Brandon Brooks (350+) have been characterized as having a low motor / lack of effort-mean streak. I want nothing to do with those guys. I do think that Hawley can be our legit OC moving forward.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
10:42 pm

I repeat….

With the exception of Dahl, 80% of the starting core of the OL was in place since the beginning of the Smith/TD regime. From day one, with the exception of Blalock and Baker, the core of this line was a bunch of castways, journeymen, and late round pick.

My God, the leader of the pack, Todd McClure, was a SEVENTH round pick by the Falcons. And this same group of malcontents still managed to finish the season ranked higher than anyone wants to give them credit for all season long.

Recall for a moment the plays that put them in the most light. First, management telegraphed what the hell we were going to do on those fourth down plays. I had time to pour a lemonade and fix a sandwich while the Falcons came to the line of scrimmage. Everyone in the civilized world knew that or assumed that Turner would get the call so why not trick them up with the FB or a quick hit outside to RW84 or the PHYSICALLY gifted JJ11?

Again, poor game management, and thus, poor integration of the resources on the field, did more to hurt this team than the play of the OL. It is all connected but the OL can only execute what the whole scheme calls for. And given the numbers that Ryan, Turner, and the offense had, we did pretty darn good given all the malfunctions we saw this season.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
10:46 pm

I know that depth is an issue with the OL…I will concede that. But this team finished 10-6 and got routed in the playoffs because of much more than the OL. Again, we will detail that in more in what I assume will be the next post.

But again, it starts with the Mikes. One of them is gone and that is supposed to be a good thing. We added another and that is supposed to also be a good thing. But I am beginning to wonder…is the Mike left on board really up to the challenge of taking this team to the next level?

blane f

February 20th, 2012
10:52 pm

ladarius green from la-lafayette is a future star

D3

February 20th, 2012
10:59 pm

Seminole — Great to see you my friend. Family is finally healthy and I’m starting to get excited about the pending off-season. How’s the grand-warrior doing? I really like the idea of potentially moving Clabo inside to RG. That would give us the beef we need at our two guard spots and Reynolds manning the RT. As much as I love that idea, I simply don’t see them doing that. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t get the feeling that Smith and Co. are too keen on “thinking outside the box.” I wouldn’t discard Mike Johnson just yet. He got that early concussion and never got on track after that. My key theme for this year’s OL is INFUSION OF TALENT & COMPETITION. I like your idea of Anthony Collins at LT. I also like Demetrius Bell and I’ll disagree with you Marcus McNeill. Obviously, we can’t offer him much of anything in terms of a big contract (perhaps all loaded into a roster / playing bonus). The reason I think McNeill could be a high reward / low risk is that we do have Svitek, who may not be Jake Long, but has proven he can get it done “pretty well.” If we go after Ben Grubbs in free agency for OG, than we seriously free up our options with our #2 and #3 picks. Honestly, right now, I’m rolling with the following for our OL…..

1) Sign one of the following for LT competition: Anthony Collins, Demetrius Bell, or Marcus McNeill to compete with Will Svitek and maybe even Andrew Jackson at LT.

2) Draft best available OG with our 2nd round pick (I would love to use that pick on a TE, but we still could snag talent in the 3rd). I’m thinking Cordy Glenn or Kevin Zeitler right now, Zeitler in particular would flourish in a ZBS scheme. Either that or go get a Ben Grubbs in lieu of using that 2nd round pick. Take either one of those guys and throw them out there for “winner-takes-all” competition for RG between them, Mike Johnson, Andrew Jackson, (shame we let Valdez get away) and anyone else there.

3) I like Joe Hawley as our center of the future. Clocking in at 302 sopping wet, I like Hawley in as our OC, not guard, even though he played pretty admirably in that OG spot. If McClure wants to come back and battle it out for a starting job for a low salary, than we’d love the competition, otherwise thanks for everything you’ve done. You may one day be in the Ring of Honor.

Here’s my way too early newly revamped OL for 2012………

LT – Collins or Bell / Svitek
LG – Justin Blalock/ Mike Johnson
OC – Hawley / McClure or Rookie
RG – Zeitler, Glenn, or Grubbs / Andrew Jackson
RT – Clabo / Reynolds

We’re ready to roll now!

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
11:07 pm

D3, glad that the family and yourself are back in the saddle fit and healthy. The little warrior is doing great; just back from visiting him over the President’s Day weekend. He was in my arms so much that I actually had to be told to put him down (grandfather’s rules according to my favorite Gunny)…
It was great though…and he looks great in Falcons gear already!!

We agree on the need for depth in terms of the OL. No doiubt about that. I am on board as sayng Collins is my TOP choice as the FA left tackle we could definately use. I totally agree with you in that Smitty does not know how to think out of the box; thus the Clabo/Reynolds situation will be wasted in his mind but is truly a viable (and inexpensive) option.

As you know, I love Zeitler and would love to see him added to the mix. He is a keeper and will be a tremendous asset to any team that drafts him. As a matter of fact, he has checked out as the most consistent OL on the TeePee draft board and I can’t wait to see him at the Combine.

falcon21

February 20th, 2012
11:09 pm

Call me crazy D3 but I had rather get an OG in FA, I think it would be the best move. I hope we get can lucky in the draft with LT if that is the way we go. Either way, we gotta get better on the O-line or we will still be talking about this same thing this next year.

SeminoleWarrior

February 20th, 2012
11:10 pm

With McNeil and Bell, I just feel that it is took risky to tie up cash in bad knees, risky backs, and sore necks. We have to be as solid as we can be at the LT position given its critical nature. And for me, Collins gives us that stability. No injury history and solid play. Just make sure that the drug house situation was TRULY a case of wrong place, wrong time, and we will be fine. And Svitek is a solid reserve to keep.