Rank your Positions of Need for the 2013 Atlanta Falcons

What’s the Falcons Biggest Needs?

The Off-season Picks Up Steam (AJC)

The NFL Scouting Combine is complete and free agency is only a few weeks away as the NFL off-season starts to pick up some steam. It obviously isn’t the same as the real, live games, but it can be just as exciting thinking about what the Falcons need and trying to predict what moves they plan to make over the next few months. For us Falcons addicts, it can be a great way to pass the time while also building excitement for the 2013 season.

As the raw numbers are in from the combine and you start to build your own draft board, one good way to go about looking at free agent prospects and at the players in the draft is to rank what you think the Falcons biggest areas of need are and that will give you a baseline to start from. Of course it’s entirely likely that none of what you hope will happen will actually come to fruition, but it’s still a fun exercise to help pass the time in the off-season. A look at the Falcons biggest needs at the off-season rolls along……….

1) Defensive End

It’s tough to differentiate on which is the bigger need between defensive end and defensive tackle. Like the chicken and the egg argument, these two are almost indistinguishable on which one is in greater need, but also how one is affected by the other. Even though the defensive ends have had hardly any help from their DT teammates, this one goes up first for obvious reasons. As mentioned in the very first off-season post, it’s a massive failure on all involved the last five years since Dimitroff and Smith took over to not develop one single defensive end with much of any success or potential at all.

Yes, that's JA#98 and Chauncey (AJC)

John Abraham has been the only one providing any sort of rush for five plus seasons now. They tried to give Jamaal Anderson a chance before moving him to defensive tackle and finally releasing him. They signed Chauncey Davis to starter level money and that didn’t pan out, even though he did almost notch as many sacks in one year (4) than Anderson’s entire Falcons career (4.5). They tried to convert Kroy Biermann, who came out of Montana 6’3, 241 lbs, to an every down defensive end with his hand in the dirt to limited success. There was a Kindal Moorehead sighting at one point. 2009 even saw a defensive tackle (Jonathan Babineaux) collar more sacks (6) than then Abraham (5.5).

Three years pass before the Falcons staff really do anything more than depend on Abraham to get all the pass rush. Ray Edwards is added via free agency in 2011, but is outmatched from Lawrence Sidbury in terms of sacks 3.5 to 4. And then we arrive at 2012. And guess what the scenario is: Abraham leads the way with 10 sacks and Biermann is second with 4. Sounds eerily familiar to 2008. What makes this the biggest area of need is the fact that there’s really not a whole lot for fans to hang their hat on. Abraham will be 35 in May, Biermann should be moved to linebacker, Sidbury appears ready to catch on and blow up with some other team, and Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi have that all important “potential” with exactly zero sacks between them. It’s obviously not easy to develop all-world defensive ends or all 32 teams would have a J.J. Watt or Jared Allen, but looking at the past five years and the lack of pass rush from players not named Abraham.

Abe, Davis, Biermann. One's Done Well (AJC)

In fact, Abraham pulled down the same amount of sacks (34.5) in four years tham all the other defensive ends have in five seasons, a list that includes a ton of names, many of which are no longer even on the roster (Anderson, Edwards, Davis). Five years and nary one player to take over not only one defensive end spot, but possibly two depending on Abraham’s 2013 status in Atlanta. The worst part is that there are no immediate fixes and the Falcons are razor thin on cap space.

2) Defensive Tackle

Similar to defensive end, this has been the Jonathan Babineaux show and not much else. Babineaux has collared 18 sacks in 5 seasons and has had a turnstile next to him. All other defensive tackles that have lined up next to him over that same time period have a combined 15 total sacks. It’s hard even to imagine that all they’ve had to do is develop one other defensive tackle to pair with him. Dimitroff tried to plug that hole in 2009 with his first overall pick, but both injuries and flat out underperformance has rendered that pick a bust. Maybe it’s a little blunt, but Clay Matthews was picked only two spots later and they needed a linebacker too. While Dimitroff claims that Jerry is making “progress” in year 5, it seems like trying to dress up a bad decision.

Big Grady! (AJC)

To his credit, Dimitroff picked Corey Peters in 2010 and that has turned out to be one of his best. Peters seems to be the rock that they can build around a true frontline starter, pulling down 1 sack as a rookie and 3 sacks in his 2nd campaign. Perhaps he never overcame his off-season injury, but his less than stellar year put some doubt on his long term ability. Vance Walker may not be a starter, but he’s been the most solid and stable of defensive tackles since he’s been a Falcon. He’s really come on the last two years, pulling down 2 sacks in 2011, 3 sacks in 2012, and even started 9 games last season. In fact, the Falcons will have to pay him some decent money to keep him. Travian Robertson showed some excellent promise in preseason, only to be place firmly in Smith’s Witness Protection Program.

No Comment (AJC)

Babineaux enters the last year of his contract and turns 32 in October. Atlanta will likely try and keep the consummate Falcon, but he’s one of the few players who could free up cap space with limited money still owed. Other than not providing the most pressure in the league, they also rarely help out their defensive ends or linebackers by drawing double-teams or collapsing the pocket. Going forward, the Falcons have something to build around with Peters, Robertson, and Walker, assuming they keep him, but they need some front-line talent in the worst way and DT is one of the deepest positions in the draft.

3) Linebacker

This has also been a rotating turnstile since Dimitroff and Smith arrived. 2008 saw the Falcons starting rookie Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker, Keith Brooking, and Michael Boley (arguably the best defensive player in 2007) at the outside linebacker spots. Neither Boley nor Brooking were re-signed in an effort to “remake” the defense after a failed 3rd and 16 was converted vs. Arizona in the regime’s first playoff game. 2009 saw the Falcons sign veteran Mike Peterson (who could still play, but was near or over 30 years of age). Stephen Nicholas manned the other spot. 2010 and 2011 saw a combination of new 1st round draft pick Sean Weatherspoon, Peterson, and Nicholas play the outside spots and Lofton in the middle.

"Why Did You Kick Coach Smith's Dog, Michael?"

2012 saw Lofton allowed to leave and inserted Akeem Dent into the base 4-3 package, even though he didn’t see the field a ton. Most of this can’t necessarily be blamed on any one person, per se, because the last thing that fans think of is the playoff loss to the Niners and almost loss to the Seahawks. That game showed a major vulnerability with the Falcons linebackers covering the tight end facing the read-option offense. They actually did a very good job containing Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson on the ground, but were vulnerable vs. the pass. Much of it may be scheme or it may be personnel, but the Falcons have got to find a way to become more aggressive and dynamic from the linebacker position. In a league that’s seeing Clay Matthews and Aldon Smith rack up close to 20 sacks by themselves, the Falcons linebacking corps has never been a threat against the rusher and haven’t pulled down many interceptions either. In fact, the total number of sacks and interceptions from all the linebackers combined in the past 5 years is pretty abysmal. 20 total sacks from all the Falcons linebackers in 5 years. Aldon Smith matched that in one season. The total interceptions from the all linebackers combined in 5 years is 7. Wow. The total amount of forced fumbles from all linebackers combined is 17.

Spoon and.......(AJC)

As mentioned before, some of it may have to do with scheme or personnel, but that is the exact opposite of a “playmaking linebacker corps.” Weatherspoon is the only surefire stud among the LBs. Nicholas has his ups and downs. In general, he had a pretty good year, but the playoffs is what fans remember most, and he was several steps slow there. Also, his 3 sacks from a few years past seem like ages ago. Akeem Dent showed very good progress towards the end of the year, but there’s still question marks on whether he’s a bonafide every down linebacker. The depth is not only razor thin, but essentially not even there. Biermann seems like a good candidate to move to linebacker, but they’ve given no hint of being innovative with moves like that. Robert James time should be up. He’s had five years to get something done, and nothing. A major infusion of youth, talent, speed, and playmaking ability is needed this off-season.

4) Punt / Kick Returner

Sure, this isn’t as important in the grand scheme when compared to the meat-and-potatoes of a football team, but ask the Baltimore Ravens if special teams aren’t important as they polish their 2nd Lombardi Trophy. Kick returner was actually in good hands with Jacquizz Rodgers, so it’s a little unfair to include that on here. However, Rodgers seems set to take on an even bigger role in the backfield in 2013 and may need to give way to someone else if possible.

Franks in PRESEASON (AJC)

Punt returner, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Dominique Franks started getting called Fair Catch Franks as the season wore on. It’s understandable that you won’t always take the ball and run, but he would fair catch when there was plenty of room to run. He was often unsure of what to do and just was pretty awful overall at the position. Harry Douglas tried his hand at it, but that also didn’t garner much. There has to be more of an emphasis on bringing in a specialist that can turn this major weakness into a strength.

5) Offensive Line

Amazing that this is ranked as the biggest need for the first time in 5 years, huh? The offensive line still is nowhere close to being dominant, but they finally have started to shore up the OL and benefit on this ranking from a pretty good performance in the playoffs. They did a superb job of protecting Matt Ryan in the playoffs and helped lead a great rushing performance against Seattle, even though not so much vs. San Francisco. This offensive line has the “potential” to be really good, but make no mistake about it, there still some major changes that should be made to become a superb OL. Justin Blalock is about the only offensive lineman that is (or at least should be) settled heading into 2013. The assumption is that the Falcons will keep Sam Baker in free agency and continue to play him at left tackle, especially since he just had arguably his best season at that spot.

Will Holmes (#76) Be a Starter? (AJC)

Tyson Clabo will obviously be starting somewhere, whether that be his normal spot of right tackle or a move to right guard, even though as mentioned earlier, the staff has shown no tendency to make changes, get creative, or really try anything different than the status quo. Peter Konz had some trial by fire, but he was the best center in the 2012 draft for a reason, so it only makes sense to move him over to center. Todd McClure has been a wonderful Falcon, but he was one of the weakest spots on the OL and will be 36 next season. The big question yet again (big shocker) is what to do at right guard.

Lamar Holmes needs to start somewhere on this offensive line, even though there’s still disagreement among some fans on this.he 3rd round is pretty high for an offensive linemen, and if they’re not starting in their second year, than it was a bad pick. In fact, many Pro Bowl linemen are routinely taken late in the draft and developed into high caliber linemen. Although he may have been drafted for left tackle, it seems as though his best place to start may either be at right tackle, thus moving Clabo back to guard, or to simply plug the hole at right guard. Either would be a very good and beneficial move.

Not Zach Galifinakis (AJC)

Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley have proven to be no more than valuable backups and seemingly weak draft picks or just not developed correctly. They both have value in case any injuries occur due to their versatility. Garrett Reynolds was having a decent start to the season before he was injured and if he’s kept, he would definitely add even more depth and versatility to the unit. Reynolds may even be primed to take over the right tackle spot as Clabo ages along. Also keep an eye on practice squad players Harland Gunn and Jacques McClendon as well. Many fans wouldn’t be upset if the Falcons took a guard early on with an ability to plug and play, but it’s finally not the catastrophe it once was.

6) Running Back

Some will feel that this should much higher of a need since the assumption is that the Falcons will be without a feature back for the first time since before Michael Turner was signed in 2008. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, all signs are pointing to the Falcons releasing one of the best Falcons running backs in franchise history. Time, money, and production eventually catch up with all players at some point and that time has come. There’s a large debate on whether Jacquizz Rodgers can be a full-time back or not, but the fact is that the kid can play and he will only see even more touches in 2013. Mike Smith seems to be going away from one feature back to the more trending running-back-by-committee approach. It allows to not only keep the backs fresh, but add different complementary traits as well to keep defenses guessing.

Will Snelling Get More Touches? (AJC)

Although seemingly underused, Jason Snelling is a great workhorse and extremely versatile to have. The main reason that running back isn’t higher is the known security that both Rodgers and Snelling provide, even if they aren’t front-line feature backs. The idea is that the Falcons will address the running back position either through the draft or in free agency.

Although this isn’t the deepest of running back classes, there are plenty of backs who can come in and provide the Falcons with exactly what they need while simultaneously getting younger and rebuilding the backfield. Some think that the Falcons may end up pulling the trigger on Eddie Lacy with their first pick if he’s still there, but there’s plenty of other backs who can be difference makers as well. Joseph Randle, Stepfan Taylor, and Jonathan Franklin to name just a few. There’s also speculation they could look into the free agent market as well (although they currently have no money to do that with). Steven Jackson was mentioned as looking at Atlanta in trying to win a Super Bowl and many fans would be delighted to see the big boy in red and black. As long as they don’t do something silly like bringing in Reggie Bush or Shonn Greene, than this should be an easy fix in 2013.

7) Tight End

This one’s obviously in flux until Tony Gonzalez makes his decision on whether or not to return for one more go around. If he hangs it up, this obviously throttles to the front of the list, but it’s hard to imagine that Gonzalez would be waiting this long to say no. Whether that’s an accurate assumption or not remains to be seen, but most of the times when guys are retiring, they will do it fairly quickly after the season. If he comes back, the Falcons have yet another year to develop some guys behind him. Which leads into the next point.

Is Palmer in the Plans? (AJC)

There is a lot of unknown in terms of pure numbers from Chase Coffman and Michael Palmer, but they have potential (Coffman) and good experience (Palmer) in a very nice complementary setup. Some think that the Falcons will take a look at Tyler Eifert if he’s still on the board at #30, while others believe that the Falcons are prepared to roll with both Coffman and Palmer in a dual type role. It will be futile trying to replace a legend, so they may not even try.

Coffman was one of the best receiving tight ends to come out of college in recent memory when he was selected in the third round. Injuries and being stuck behind Jermaine Gresham led to his release. The potential is certainly there as evidenced in his acrobatic catch in the playoffs, but the injury history gives pause. Palmer is an excellent #2 tight end with good hands that can get you the first down and block extremely well. Together, they pair up to be a pretty formidable duo. Eifert proved he’s the best tight end in the draft in an otherwise weak year for tight ends.

8.) Cornerback

What Role for McClain? (AJC)

Like tight end, this one is in flux too. Assuming that everything stays the same, this is a position of strength…….for now. Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, and Robert McClain formed a very nice trio of cornerbacks in 2012, especially considering the lack of pass rush from the front seven. The trade for Samuel was one of Dimitroff’s best moves and he proved he’s still got plenty left in the tank. While Robinson may not be an All-Pro and will never live up to his infamous contract, he was very, very solid both in pass coverage (for the most part) and in run defense. He arguably had his best year as a Falcon under Mike Nolan’s new scheme.

The Birds also seem to have a keeper in Robert McClain, who was a wonderful surprised playing the nickel. Even Chris Owens seem to play much better under Nolan. If the Falcons keep Samuel, Robinson, McClain, and Owens together for another year and either bring back Brent Grimes or bring in a new draft pick, this is one of the more stable positions on the team, at least for now. However, the financial details could prevent that from happening. Owens is a free agent, McClain is a restricted free agent, and Robinson could easily be a cap casualty where the team desperately needs to free up space just to re-sign some of their own (Baker, Moore, Owens, etc) and their new draft picks. And that’s not even including bringing back Gonzalez if he wants to return. If they cut Robinson, that’s another huge hole they have to fill.

Any way Grimes Returns? (AJC)

It could be Brent Grimes, but he hasn’t even started running outside yet in his comeback from his injury. Dominique Franks is surely gone after a pretty poor 2013, so there should be an open slot for a new cornerback to make his mark. If it stays together, it’s stable for now. In another year or so will be an entirely different story.

9) Safety

As with all positions, this one is very fluid as well. If the Falcons can hang onto William Moore as he hits the free agent market, than this is one of the most stable and best performing positions on the entire team. They may still be inconsistent, but the combination of Thomas DeCoud and William Moore both earned them a trip to the Pro Bowl. Charles Mitchell looks to finally add some security and a potential player to develop after going through a turnstile of players the last few years. The other spot was held by Chris Hope, who came in and did a very good job in Moore’s long absence. If Hope doesn’t stay, Dimitroff has shown that he likes to fill the spot with a savvy veteran.

Is Mitchell Ready? (AJC)

This obviously all changes if Moore is allowed to go to another team and get a max contract. All of sudden, Charles Mitchell is the given starter and they have to either venture into the highly inflated free agent market for a replacement or move yet another position up their draft board. Some have discussed moving Robinson to safety and bringing back Grimes in an emergency scenario, because even though there’s plenty of talent at safety in the free agent market (Jarius Byrd, Kenny Phillips, maybe Laron Landry), they all are reportedly looking for big deals. This is the biggest one to watch as March 12th approaches.

10) Wide Receiver

Julio Jones and Roddy White. Enough said, right? Well almost. The wide receivers were certainly the strength of this Falcons team. Julio Jones made his first Pro Bowl. Roddy White should have made his 5th Pro Bowl and the top two spots are secure, at least for now. White will be turning 32 soon and it’s high time to develop some younger talent under Jones and White. Perhaps no player will have a brighter spotlight on him than Harry Douglas. The Jonesboro High product and one of the nicest guys on the team will need to finally either prove his worth or make way for some younger talent.

Time for HD to "Rise Up!" (AJC)

Douglas’ career could even be summed up in two plays in the playoffs. On one hand he caught the first pass on the final drive that led to the Falcons getting the first playoff win in the Smith Era with under 32 second left. And he got out of bounds to stop the clock. That play could be a representation for his rookie year, where he dazzled in the pass game, punt return game, and even had his fair share of reverses. He was shaping up to be something special in the slot. The other side of the coin is filled with unfulfilled potential. The other play will haunt Falcons fans for a long time. Douglas was thrown a beautiful pass that had nothing but open field between him and a likely trip to play the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Untouched, he tripped and barely made the catch upon booth review. Sure, the pass went for a first down, but could’ve been so much more. He’s no young buck anymore at the age of 28 (will turn 29 in September) and it’s high time to breakthrough or give way.

Davis Had a Good Philly Game (AJC)

Both Drew Davis and Kevin Cone are loaded with that all-important potential, but only Davis gave a glimmer of converting that into actual production. Hopefully, both will break through and we’ll find a future starter either on the outside or replace Douglas in the slot, but at least one has to make the jump very soon. Douglas, Davis, and Cone should all see continued competition from draft picks and undrafted free agents until a legit Sunday player is found, not just a special teamer.

11) Quarterback

Matt Ryan. Done

In all seriousness, the only issue is getting a new contract done making Ryan the Falcons franchise QB for the rest of his career and it being done sooner rather than later. Some believe that Ryan should face competition for his job and those individuals should buy a clue. Is he perfect? No, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He just needs to cut down on his turnovers in big games.

Smith and Co. should take Dominique Davis firmly out of their Witness Protection Program and put him in as the Falcons #2 immediately. Luke McCown can stay on and hold a clipboard as the emergency backup #3 QB or they can draft and develop someone else.

Bird Cage Team Builder’s Turn

1) Simple Dive – give your rankings on biggest needs to least (1 – highest, 11 – lowest)

2) Ideally, who will / should be starting at DE in September?

3) What’s your ideal 5 or 6 man DT rotation on opening day?

4) How much do Falcons need to re-do their LB corps?

5) Are you surprised at the lack of “play-making” stats over the past 5 years from the LB corps?

6) Is Punt / Kick Returner too high or too low? Who should get the nod?

7) Is the OL still a high need or has it leveled out some?

8.) How would you go about changing the RB backfield?

9) What should Falcons do if Gonzalez leaves?

10) Should Falcons cut DRob or keep him? If cut, who starts?

11) What’s your backup plan if Moore leaves?

12) Is this HD’s last chance to show up?

13) Will Matt Ryan go for a Brees max contract or closer to a manageable Brady contract?

633 comments Add your comment

Joshua malaveda

February 28th, 2013
10:33 am

One more thing before I go to bed, the falcons will not get olgetree due to history and i heard that he bombed out in his combine interviews so bad that some teams took him off their boards completely i wouldnt be surprised if the falcons were one of them.

Joshua malaveda

February 28th, 2013
10:33 am

JohnWaynesWorld

February 28th, 2013
10:41 am

Big Ray, F21, SW, I really do agree that we need to find play makers for our defense, and the percentages are higher to find one in Round One of the draft, but we also need to look at the way the NFL is evolving and how creating mismatches on offense can change games. We have all seen the effect a large, FAST Tight End can have on defensive coverage. Heck we are always talking about double teaming or bracketing Graham and he still catches long touchdowns against us. Just imagine what we could do (in Tony G’s last season) by adding a TE who can stretch the field just like Graham.

We would have a double TE set that would be a defensive nightmare plus it would open up the run option (because both Eifert and Ertz can block very well). On top of everything our new TE would be getting the best Tight End teacher in NFL history. Now before I get the Chase Coffman reply we have to talk about Chase’s history. Yes he has always been a great pass catcher and yes I heard he is getting somewhat better at blocking (he almost never blocked in college while playing in the spread offense), but his inability to stay healthy (and his blocking) have made teams release him, twice. 3 times if you include when the Falcons cut him before re-signing him to the PS. We also should remember that before us, Tampa had Chase for 6 months in the 2012 offseason and cut him before he even saw a preseason game.

http://tampabay.sbnation.com/tampa-bay-buccaneers/2012/8/6/3222979/buccaneers-training-camp-chase-coffman-andrew-depaola

http://www.bucsnation.com/2012/8/6/3222991/tampa-bay-buccaneers-waive-chase-coffman-sign-ls-andrew-depaola

From one article…”Coffman was a third-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft. He suffered broken foot during his senior year at the University of Missouri and has never been able to recapture the form he had in college that made him one of the top tight ends in the country for a time.”

If Coffman had recovered properly from his foot injury he suffered in game 9 (out of 14 games in his senior season), he would have been a late 1st round draft choice. Once drafted by an NFL team and given proper coaching for blocking and the benefit of the best doctors in the world, if Chase had completely recovered from his foot injury (and regained his speed) he would still be with whatever team drafted him and probably be a Pro Bowler. But he didn’t and he hasn’t, and that is what is called a roster red flag. As much as we wish for him to be what he was (a Mackey Award winner at Missouri), he is what he is now (questionably good) because of his health history and nobody, including TD, is going to give Chase a multi-year contract until he proves he can stay on the field and produce like a high end NFL TE.

Chase also had ankle problems, as reported by the Bengals.
Here’s Coffman’s timeline…
http://fantasynews.cbssports.com/fantasyfootball/players/updates/565753

On an optimistic note, if by chance Chase has turned a corner in his career by staying healthy and learning to block better, he would be a perfect compliment in 2014 for our new #1 Tight End in the post-Gonzales era, which by the way is not that far away.

Nookah

February 28th, 2013
10:42 am

Greetings Cagers!!
Guys, I have been having so much fun standing on the sidelines andwatching the pre-draft comments. these comments are greater than the combine IMO. Keep it up, I’m having a blast.
Saw 2 stories on Yardbarker that will interest us Falcon fans:

http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/article_external/why_2013_will_be_mike_smiths_last_season_with_atlanta/13001965

There is a link at the bottom of this article as to why we deserve a championship. Light read but positive.

As far as this offseason goes I think we’ll go for experience and go after either Steven Jaackson or Reggie Bush. I think MS’s preference is Jackson. Why? Smitty loves the bruiser and he tends to alweays love a thumper so SJ it is.

Of course the debate goes on as to what position we’ll go for in the first round. My thoughts are TE whether TG comes back or not. Simply because if Eiffert (sp) is there at 30, you have to pull the trigger. If he’s not then you can find talent down the line.

By the way isn’t Pitta a restricted FA? Of course it all depends on the tender they put on him. If it’s round 2 or less then we have to consider pulling the trigger there for the TE position. However there is an intriguing prospect I looked at and that was Levine Poilio, 6′ 8″ and 265. Wow! Not a burner but think of the size on 3rd downs. Maybe some good upside if we get TG back.

My RB of choice is none other than Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State. Yeah yeah, I know that TJ Duckett country but this kid is not TJ Duckett – 4.60 40, 6′ 1″ 230lbs, packs a load and very shifty. This is the guy I want TG to draft at the running back position, ay somewhere in the 3rd round (pick #30).
The banter continues………..
Go Falcons!
Go Falcons!!

marko

February 28th, 2013
10:43 am

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2013/mock-drafts/gil-brandt/165254
Gil Brandt’s post combine mock. Spoiler alert, those with weak stomachs should avoid checking out his Falcon’s pick.

He has Margus Hunt going to Indianapolis at 24. God I hate those guys. they lose Payton, and Luck just drops into their laps. Freeney becomes a cap hit, and who should pop up but Margus Hunt. Did I mention the fact that they’re drowning in cap space. give me a break.
By the way guys, one pick after we apparently lose our minds, He has the 49ers snapping up John Jenkins. Are we really going to let them get away with that crap? also of note, he sees Jarvis Jones falling to the Packers at 26. I don’t think TD’s going to allow Jarvis to drop that far. Something of that nature would activate his auto trade system.

Joshua malavenda

February 28th, 2013
11:06 am

Nookah- like you I believe they will get s- jax and I wouldn’t be too surprised if gonzo came back either. If was going to retire he would’ve done it by now.

My thoughts on the draft- I definely believe that the defense is main priority in the draft. The good thing about this draft is it pretty deep for defense. I really would like the falcons to draft a jack of trades kinda guy this year similar to tavon Austin or swope who you can play everywhere on the offense. I think would do wonders for already potent offense.

Well at least in 12 days fa starts and we will start seeing where our plan is going towards the draft untill just be anxiously waiting like the rest of us

JB Falcon

February 28th, 2013
11:22 am

D3, that is an absolutely thorough post and well researched, however, after reading it I’m having a hard time regaining my optimism. I keep repeating 13-3, 13-3. We have a lot of work to do and can only trust the TD & Co are doing some really indepth research in order to present another decent team this year. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

D3

February 28th, 2013
11:23 am

Great Thursday Cage!

Sorry for the length on the post, it’s one of those deals where I started writing and didn’t realize til about halfway through how long it was going to be. Anyway, enjoy….

JM / Nookah — I agree with you guys assuming that the price is right. Knox Bardeen just wrote a post that said it would be terrible for the long haul, but he mentioned the price being too high with other teams driving it up. He mentioned the Packers, Broncos, Patriots, and us if he wants to win a title. The thing is this, though, out of those four, our offense still fits him the best. Whereas the running back is an afterthought with Manning, Rodgers, and Brady, it still has more of a place here in Koetter’s scheme. We may have gone aerial, but not on the level of those 3. Can’t really see the Broncos having any cap space after spending paying Peyton so much. I could see the Packers and Patriots, so it will be interesting.

Him bringing back Gonzalez and signing Steven Jackson would fit right in TD’s M.O. of filling a need before the draft so he can focus more purely on one side of the ball. That luxury would be amazing in being able to go something like 1st rd: DT, 2nd rd: LB, 3rd: DE, 4th: CB/S. Essentially devoting the entire draft to rebuilding the defense in Nolan’s mold. That would allow the Falcons to cut Abe, Babs, Turner, and Jerry and use the money to get S-Jax.

I wouldn’t totally rule it out, even as unlikely as it may be.

D3

February 28th, 2013
11:41 am

JB — Certainly not to make you depressed, but a good look at some “true” statistics on the defensive side of the ball. Something that SW has mentioned a lot. I think we’ll be fine, well, and good on the offensive side of the ball as long as we are smart at RB and either bring back Gonzo or figure out a replacement. I say, if we Gonzalez doesn’t come back we either go with Eifert or spend an earlier pick than normal on a slot receiver, such as Swope, that will push and compete with HD in the slot. The defense needs a major overhaul, IMO. Some disagree, but when a defense looks indistinguishable from the original after 5 years of off-seasons, trades, draft picks, free agents, than something needs to change.

just "little ole" me

February 28th, 2013
11:53 am

The offseason has arrived. So it’s time to come out of the wood work.

I like the Stephen Jackson idea, but only if it’s a short term contract 2-3 years and only with an “I want to win” discount! There aren’t any other FA RBs That will be good value for us. Do your homework and draft a good RB to complement Quizz! Even if we sign SJ I still think we need to grab a RB in the late rounds. Preferably one that is a good kick/punt returner!

I find it interesting how many cagers are calling to resign Sam Baker when this time a year ago they were wanting to release him. Sure he had his best year, but how do we know that he will perform next year. Look at Doug Free for Dallas. Great contract year in 2011, but this year that player didn’t show up. In Holmes you draft a guy for a reason!

Moore is a must resign! If not then Safety become the number one need. It is a deep safety class.

I would love to see us grab Margus Hunt, but we need someone in the middle of the Dline that demands double teams. If we can get that then the DEs that we have now will see a nice increase in stat production.

Punt/kick return is a top 5(maybe even top 3) need. If you knew that the next Devin Hester was available when we were up to pick in the first round would you not take him? I understand good return men are hard to find, but they provide the team with field position. You want to drive 70-80 yards every time to score or 40-50 yards.

I have some prospective draft picks, but I am going to hold off until I get time to finish watching the combine.

D3-I love the read! Everyone else keep up the great comments and links!

Nookah

February 28th, 2013
12:26 pm

JM, can’t wait until March 12.

I too am in favour of a slot receiver. Let’s fact it HD ain’t getting the job done, plain and simple.

D3, I’m with you with the slot receiver and a versatile player on offence and Tavon Austin is the guy.

Apart from the obvious DE need (for the last 5 years now), we need a big “move-the-pile-DT”.

Go Falcons!

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 28th, 2013
12:29 pm

DL & OL ……… period! There is very little quality depth on the OL and only TWO quality staretrs on the DL with very little depth. Bring in Steven Jackson in free agency and cut loose some of these guys like Jerry that are injury proned under achievers.

Hamad Meander

February 28th, 2013
12:34 pm

I like the Bleacher reports mock and I like JWW’s assessment that a double TE set makes for match up nightmares for defenses. If anything came out of last season’s playoff games, it showed how a fast TE can make a mess of a defense. I like Eifert, but wouldn’t spend the #30 pick on Ertz. I don;t put much stock in TG88 teaching a new TE how to play though – great players don’t always make great teachers.

Maybe I’m not looking at this team through the same glasses, but I believe our biggest needs in order are: 1. defensive end 2. running back 3. tight end (even if Tony stays) 4. corner 5. another DE 6. linebacker 7. offensive guard. I would prefer we address DE in free agency and RB, TE, CB, LB, and G in the draft. We have to get younger and smarter with our money, and the new rookie pay scale really benefits a team building through the draft.

My idea is that improving the offense helps our chances to win a Superbowl just as much as improving the defense does. If we has been able to score ONCE in the NFCCG, we would be talking about how we were going to repeat as Superbowl Champs vs. how are we going to get there.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 28th, 2013
12:34 pm

#1 priority is to extend Moore’s contract and same for Matt Ryan. Get a free agent (Steven Jackson) at RB – if that fails Kniles Davis in round #3. 1st round DE and 2nd round OL. Also need a LB – depth there is negligible. TE can wait unless there is an uncovered jewel in round #4 where the Falcons have two picks. They also have two picks in round #7 and need to get someone with good hands, judgement and speed to return kicks.

Hamad Meander

February 28th, 2013
12:36 pm

It doesn’t matter how much I reread a post, I always spot at least one typo or grammatical error after I hit the button. My apologies.

JB Falcon

February 28th, 2013
12:38 pm

Our situation right now has too many “IF’s” to even begin to guess what we will need. If Gonzo plays, If we cut MT, If we re-sign Willymo & Baker, If we pick up SJ. I think we should draft a RB even if we do get SJ. I’m not real comfortable relying on Coffman and Palmer but it’s possible “If”?
N.O. is restructuring a lot of their players and have announced their plan to switch to a 3-4. The Falcons have done absolutely nothing and that compounds the problem.
Dimitroff said the Falcons — like many other teams in the league — are focused more on roster maintenance as opposed to a roster overhaul.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 28th, 2013
12:38 pm

Falcons should have drafted Boykin in the 3rd round last year which would have filled a need at CB and kick returner. Poor judgement there since he was right in their back yard to be evaluated. Amazing that the Falcons have whiffed on so many draft picks the last 4 years and still made it to the final 4 of the playoffs – must be smart coaching. They need to bring in someone that can more effectively evaluate talent on the OL and DL.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 28th, 2013
12:44 pm

Also quit drafting injury prone players like Jerry and REACHES like Jamaal Anderson. DUMB DUMB DUMB…… if the talent is not there don’t REACH get someone at another position that can actually PLAY. Holmes was another example of a REACH – injury prone under achiever and time for him to step up or move on.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 28th, 2013
12:47 pm

If you can get four starters in a draft then you will have a successful draft. So lets see – #1 DE, #2 OL, #3 DT, #4 LB there is your four starters that Falcons need for a successful draft.

Jeff B

February 28th, 2013
12:56 pm

The areas where we need to improve the most from last year is in the trenches. I totally agree that D-line is the top need. After that, our o-line needs to improve but like you said there are a number of internal candidates for that. We should only bring in a new guy if he’s good enough to start right away.

I think we need to draft both a RB and a TE at some point, but I disagree with doing either in the first round. Let’s get a D-line talent to groom in the 1st and get the RB and TE later in the draft.

Hopefully we’ll bring back most of our potential FAs, or we might spend the rest of our draft picks trying to plug those new holes in our roster.

Die Hard Falcon

February 28th, 2013
1:12 pm

Thanks again D3!

For now here’s my order of importance w/o much else said:
Starting at the bottom
11 — QB — not much to say other than get MR2’s contract done, should’ve done it last offseason, would’ve been much cheaper, but he’s our guy for the next 8 – 10 years IMO
10 — Wide Receiver — We have the best duo in the NFL, an upgrade and someone to push HD for the #3 would be great, look in mid or late rounds, would love to get Ryan Swope in 4th round if he’s there, otherwise late round or UDFA, in the slot mold
9 — Punt/Kick Returner — I think we have serviceable returners on the team, I like Quizz on KR, and I think HD in PR, curious about Antone Smith maybe taking over KR since Quizz’s load should increase
8 — O Line — I think we have enough talent, I wouldn’t mind us pick up another interior O lineman in the draft, if for some crazy reason Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper fell to us at #30 and all of the other positions I value higher have been picked over, then I think we make the Best Player Available at a position of need approach, otherwise Barrett Jones in round 2 or 3, or wait until the 5th round or later for depth.
7 — Safety — The key is Willy Mo! We need to resign or if absolutely necessary, franchise him, he’d be a top 3 or 4 SS if he could stay healthy and is my personal favorite player on D. If they choose to let him walk I see no reason to go after one of the other big FA’s, why not just pay Willy in that case? Go in the draft for depth and I assume if they let him walk they must believe in Charles Mitchell or something.
6 — Cornerback — Only reason I have this higher isn’t as much about needing someone, but making some changes, DRob needs to take a paycut or get cut IMO. I think if we do so, and if Grimes is willing to play for 4 million or so a season, then resign him, otherwise I think Samuel, Owens (who we should resign), and McClain are good if we can fix the front 7 anyway. I am still foolishly enamoured w/ the idea of trading for Revis, I know it’s not likely, but the thought of cutting DRob, letting Grimey walk and pairing Revis w/ Samuel and Mclain and Owens, would be lethal, if we can get him for a 2nd round or maybe a 3rd and 4th round, I’d be all for it, only if we can lock him up to a reasonable 5 year contract, no holdouts, I guess I can dream
5 — Tight End — I think TG88 is coming back, either way I would like for us to think about the future as well, if all the best NT’s or impact LB’s are gone at #30, I wouldn’t mind if we take Eiffert, if he’s gone, then no one until 3rd round or later.
4 — Running Back — I think this is simple, I like what a lot of cagers Seminole Warrior & D3 like Stepfan Taylor, Randle, Lacy. I think we should draft an RB, although the idea of Steven Jackson, then draft Lattimore in the 5th for time to heal, sounds like a good immediate and long term solution.
3 — Defensive End — I am ALL about switching to a 3 – 4 and that’s why this is not the #1 on the list, we should move Babs and whoever else that might work as 5 techniques to those and then look for depth in late rounds at that 3 – 4 end types
2 — Linebackers — I think this should be again connected to 3 – 4 philosophy, move Biermann to OLB rusher, and any other of our DE’s that can handle the move, then see if any others are available in rounds 2 or later for either OLB’s or MLB’s
1 — Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle — Should be our #1 pick, a big powerful NT to fortify our 3 – 4 switch and help our LB’s make plays

Go Falcons!!!

Die Hard Falcon

February 28th, 2013
1:16 pm

D3, when you get a moment, I believe my rather lengthy post was blog monstered, thanks

D3

February 28th, 2013
1:39 pm

Just Me — Glad you’re back!

Hamad — Good point. The best teams don’t just rest on their laurels if one side of the ball is good, they find anyway to increase it. Finding a replacement for Gonzo if he leaves, a stud RB, and some competition at slot WR will keep us going even further.

Jeff B — Agreed. Even though I wouldn’t be upset with either Eifert or Lacy, ultimately my head agrees that DL, particularly DT is the best way to go with 1st pick.

Flo-Ri-Duh — Agreed on Jerry. Time for dude to go. To TD’s credit, he’s stayed away from injury prone players for the most part since then. He did take Peters to make up for it. I would have like to have got Boykin too being a Dawg fan, but I also think that Holmes will be starting either at LT, RT, or RG this year. Totally in agreement that if he doesn’t start somewhere, it was a bust pick.

Die Hard Falcon

February 28th, 2013
1:51 pm

Anyone see this?

2013 NFL Rumors: 49ers to Trade For Darrelle Revis?
NFL Soup‎ – 58 minutes ago
A day after a deal to send QB Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, … to be interested in courting the New York Jets’ star shut-down corner; CB Darrelle Revis. … Looking at this from the Alex Smith trade going forward, you could see this deal happening. … That’s how big this move could potentially be.

D3

February 28th, 2013
2:12 pm

Die Hard — Post out.

D3

February 28th, 2013
2:30 pm

Interesting little tidbit from SW’s boy…….

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/02/28/ryan-swope-people-are-shocked-im-a-white-guy-running-a-4-3/

I believe Mr. Swope will be out of our range, unless we want to spend a 3rd round on him. Heck, he may even be gone by the time we select in the 3rd. Would love to have him, but the need is just not there.

PlanB

February 28th, 2013
2:48 pm

I’m sticking with what I have been saying with the exception of an excellent player dropping back much further than he was expected. First round is a huge NT. There is a good possibility that John Jenkins will still be there. Rounds 2 & 3 should be LB’s. A good NT/DT will help the DE’s pass rush and Nolan has said he prefers many having fewer sacks than a few players having many sacks. In our case it’s only one having many. Good speedy coverage LB’s as should be available in the 2nd & 3rd round should also make good blitzers. Spoon & using (Beirmann as D3 suggested) with the best LB of our 2 and 3 picks would make this a good corp with some depth. I don’t understand why MS plays as many people as he does out of position and why he has so many in the WPP. I’m going to be cheering Sidbury on when he starts playing good for another team and I will be asking why we let him go.
Use the 4 thru 7 for whatever other needs we have. RB, TE, OL or whatever.

John Waynesworld

February 28th, 2013
3:00 pm

1) Give your rankings on biggest needs to least (1 – highest, 11 – lowest) DE – 1, TE – 2, OLB – 3, RB – 4, OL – 5, DT – 6, S – 7, WR/KR – 8, CB – 9, ILB – 10, QB/K/P – N/A.

2) Ideally, who will / should be starting at DE in September? Abe & the newly drafted DE (of course!)

3) What’s your ideal 5 or 6 man DT rotation on opening day? VW, CP, TR, Babs, Regis, and the newly drafted DT.

4) How much do Falcons need to re-do their LB corps? Very much. In my opinion Nicholas is close to losing his starting job, Peterson should retire before he hurts himself (love this guy), “Area 51″ has always been a mystery, and Dent has one more year to learn pass defense or go back to Special Teams. OLB should be a top 3 pick and Kroy should start running 5 miles a day in prep for his new position at OLB.

5) Are you surprised at the lack of “play-making” stats over the past 5 years from the LB corps? I was shocked when I read your article, D3. If we weren’t such a good team it would be a firing offense. A really incredible stat.

6) Is Punt / Kick Returner too high or too low? Who should get the nod? It is too high on your list, imo, but important nonetheless. There are a few lightning rods in this draft, and KR should and will be addressed through the speedy WR position. I have always felt they should line up all the WRs, CBs and RBs at the goal line in a race, and the first one who gets to the 25 yard line (and doesn’t have a huge contract) wins the job.

7) Is the OL still a high need or has it leveled out some? We have continuity in this bunch, a couple of big guys who haven’t even played yet, and a healthy Baker who will be re-signed for a friendly price. The Center position gives me concern and that’s why I mocked Travis Frederick, if available, in my 3rd round. For depth TD should look for an undergraduate or small school Center in the later rounds.

8.) How would you go about changing the RB backfield? I would pick up Rashad Jennings for a song and draft a 3-down back like Zac Stacy in the 4th round. Additionally, if he was still on the board I would take Lattimore with the 5th pick and encase him in bubble wrap for a year (especially if we picked up a reasonably priced veteran RB to platoon with Quizz this season).

9) What should Falcons do if Gonzalez leaves? Cry like teenaged girls. The TE personnel on the 2013 UGA team has more talent than this present roster does without Tony. We need fast, skilled TE freaks for mismatches in the secondary, not the hulking average joes on this squad.

10) Should Falcons cut DRob or keep him? If cut, who starts? If Dunta can play Safety then maybe Decoud is expendable. The unknown which is Grimes’ Achilles injury is the stickler here. If Grimes can’t perform we need to keep DRob for a possible switch to CB. If one of the Safeties leaves then Dunta may be our best hope at that position (no offense, Chris).

11) What’s your backup plan if Moore leaves? Dunta to Safety or Mitchell platoons with Chris Hope and we draft another Safety. Schillinger is still around but…

12) Is this HD’s last chance to show up? Absolutely. Nice guy or not. In fact one of the 2013 draftees should be a WR/PR/KR (Denard Robinson?) to make Harry’s chances even slimmer.

13) Will Matt Ryan go for a Brees max contract or closer to a manageable Brady contract? I think we should go the “Patriot Way” and CHEAT. Let’s redo Matt’s present contract and sign him to a 7-year contract, pay him in all “guaranteed money” (wink wink), with an annual salary against the cap of $1, $1, $1, $1, $1, $1, and $1.

Die Hard Falcon

February 28th, 2013
3:11 pm

2) Ideally, who will / should be starting at DE in September?

I think based on my post about the ranking of changes that the switch to the 3 – 4 should make our DE’s 5 techniques, I could see Babs and Robertson or Peters there in a 3 – 4. Also, I think that our pass rushers will then be our OLB’s : Biermann & Matthews or El Sid or Massaquoi

Go Falcons!!!

Hamad Meander

February 28th, 2013
3:15 pm

On the Tight End situation, I was thinking the other day – is Tony Gonzalez a tight end or a very big slot receiver? My point is that if Tony was rarely used in the run/pass bock scheme, why should we worry about replacing him with a tight end that can do those things? I don’t know the answer to this, but I’ve never heard “Man, Tony really made a nice block on that play”. Maybe we can replace Tony’s production with an effective slot receiver vs. another TE. I would buy an offense that had Julio, Roddy, Healthy Harry, and a new quick running back every day.

Die Hard Falcon

February 28th, 2013
3:20 pm

13) Will Matt Ryan go for a Brees max contract or closer to a manageable Brady contract?

I don’t think he’ll get a Brees contract unless they don’t do the contract until next offseason and he has another stellar year and wins the Lombardi. I don’t know that it will necessarily be a “cap-friendly” contract like Brady, he’s been around long enough that I think he’ll do that for the team, I’d love him for it if he did, but I’m thinking he’ll be heading for a contract in the tier below Brees, Manning

Die Hard Falcon

February 28th, 2013
3:24 pm

Hamad –
I do think that Tony is an exceptional blocker, I don’t know that he’s known for his blocking, the phenomenal receiver that he is overshadows it. I didn’t watch him much when he was in KC, so I don’t know if he always was, but he is a good blocker, just a better receiver

Pat Yastinkas

February 28th, 2013
3:26 pm

Does DOL even work at the AJC anymore?

Me? I’ve decided to move to New Orleans so I can use my super-secret spy camera on Sean Payton and the Saints and I can rub mine out in a closer proximate distance to my man-crush. Oh yeah, by the way, it’s not a good idea for the Falcons to sign Reggie Bush.

I know, I’m waiting for my Murrow Award any day now.

Paddy O

February 28th, 2013
4:14 pm

WHAT? DE #1? Say it aint so, joe? DT, #1; LB, #2; S/CB depth #3; RB #4; TE, #5. We have so many DE’s on the roster now, are we shooting for a choir?

Big Ray

February 28th, 2013
4:19 pm

http://www.ajc.com/news/sports/football/falcons-name-polk-director-football-operations/nWcd8/

Ok, so what does this mean in relation to Rich McKay, who I thought was handling all the contract/finance/salary cap stuff anyway?

Big Ray

February 28th, 2013
4:20 pm

JWW ,

You make your argument really hard to confront. I totally get what you’re saying, I really do. I’ll still scream, particularly if we find ourselves struggling to get good defenders the rest of the way.

But you know me…I’m getting behind whomever is drafted to wear the red and black.

Ray

February 28th, 2013
4:32 pm

Wow glad to finally have my original name back lol.

As for the article in question can’t really do anything right now FA is where we can gauge exactly what we need to say want to draft RB or TE at this point we don’t know at all. Now I would actually go TE first round honestly we need a legit TE and not if’s if u know what I mean.

DT’s can be had in Second and Third rounds and there are DE’s on the market in FA which is why I’d rather wait for FA to shake out before we get into all this about what we need and don’t need.

Ray

February 28th, 2013
4:33 pm

No lie if Jarvis Jones drops that far(Extreme wishful thinking) You get him no questions asked lol.

[...] News here – Atlanta Falcons: The Cage ← Westside Warehouse Sale Cancel [...]

Joshua malavenda

February 28th, 2013
5:11 pm

My thoughts on revis

I think the 49ers will trade a boat load of picks for him. He is best cornerback in the game but I just can get over his diva like personality. I am glad the falcons aren’t getting him because he would be cancerous to our locker room and he would put in worse situation cap wise. He also is coming off a acl tear and as good ap wascoming off the same injury that is a pretty unrealistic to be expect the same type of performance from revis. No thanks 49ers you can deal with that.

Just saying!

rik warren

February 28th, 2013
5:37 pm

Somebody who can tackle!!

Dan

February 28th, 2013
5:47 pm

1st TE Tyler Eifert or WR Tavon Austin
2nd LB Kahseem Green
3rd RB Le’Veon Bell
4th DT Brandon Williams

falcon21

February 28th, 2013
7:08 pm

JWW, you make great points and we may very well draft a TE first but our needs on the defensive side of the ball are too great. It would be nice to get another game changing TE but it would also be nice to see our defense get off the field after 3rd down and pressuring a QB to the point that it is taking pressure off of our secondary. I agree with what you have said but we need to address the D-line first IMHO.

JJ

February 28th, 2013
7:55 pm

D3, great write up my brother! Your dedication to the cage is remarkable and greatly underappreciated, tks buddy!

F21, Agree…DT – LB – OL are my first 3 rds. I also will throw rock thru the tv if a te or rb gets picked in 1st rd…kidding of course. Ill just harrass unca a litle more!!!(with my spelling bee trophy!)

JB Falcon

February 28th, 2013
8:22 pm

From what I’ve read the last week or so, if we draft Eifert in the first round, there’s going to be a surge in TV sales shortly thereafter. :)

D3

February 28th, 2013
8:26 pm

Interesting……….

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/02/28/steelers-claim-john-parker-wilson-off-waivers/

JJ — Thanks man. All for the Cage Brothers!

JB — I’ll admit to being one of the few that will be OK / happy with Eifert with our pick. If it’s any other TE besides Eifert, than yes……….I may be in the market for a new TV, a new Falcons beer mug, or both. :grin:

Really wouldn’t rule out a play for Steven Jackson, ya’ll…………

The Time is NOW

February 28th, 2013
8:31 pm

OK folks, you know that I admit my track record at playing GM is terrible. I have also been real pleased with the results I have seen on the field over the last 5 years (as much as I am still anxious to see this regime bring home a Lombardi). But you guys have really been on a roll this offseason, especially the last few days. Reading your stuff has gotten me into doing a little research for the draft. I won’t be overly disturbed if my best guesses prove to be incorrect, I know I’m not as good a GM as TD for sure. But it is just fun to speculate how to make your team better this time of year. Once the team has made its moves then we have no choice but to go back to waiting for some action on a field.

D3 – well written, thought provoking subject. You are doing a great job of keeping us from getting too far ahead of ourselves this long before the draft. Kudos, as always! Don’t know how you make the time to do it, but I really appreciate your efforts.

Here are my thoughts on this week’s questions (broken into several posts to try to avoid the blog monster).

The Time is NOW

February 28th, 2013
8:33 pm

1) Simple Dive – give your rankings on biggest needs to least (1 – highest, 11 – lowest)

Please forgive the redefining of the categories from 11 to 8. The reasons for this should become obvious in the other answers that follow.
(1) – DL (2) – LB (3) – RB (4) – WR/TE (5) – DB (6) – OL (7) – QB, you always have to be developing, and pushing, young back-ups (8) – KR/PR

2) Ideally, who will / should be starting at DE in September?

Assuming we go to a 3-4, a rotation from among our current DT’s (and possibly DE’s).

3) What’s your ideal 5 or 6 man DT rotation on opening day?

Once again, assuming the 3-4: Babs, Peters, Walker, Robertson, 2 draft picks.

The Time is NOW

February 28th, 2013
8:34 pm

4) How much do Falcons need to re-do their LB corps?
Before last season, Nolan was quoted as saying that all our DE’s would be better suited to LB in his system. You brought the guy in, let him play his system. The season, and playoffs in particular, demonstrated that we need to add AT LEAST one linebacker with the speed and coverage abilities necessary to cover TE’s and RB’s out of the backfield.
Assuming Nolan feels the same way about the DE’s after going through a season with them, we may be only a piece or two away from a much improved LB corps. Peterson was a last minute stopgap when Tatupu got hurt; he’s done and won’t be back. (But he was a good player for us in his day, and a positive force in the locker room.) Spoon is solid and Dent is at least adequate (and young enough to still have upside). Add in Biermann, Matthews, Massaquoi and a couple of draft choices with cover skills and speed and viola! We have a promising group of players to shape into a LB corps.
5) Are you surprised at the lack of “play-making” stats over the past 5 years from the LB corps?
Shocked. I would have expected we had been much closer to average.
6) Is Punt / Kick Returner too high or too low? Who should get the nod?
Our return game definitely needs improvement. I just can’t justify using an inordinate amount of resources to address this area at this point. We have too many other pressing needs. This is where you use a 7th round draft pick or bring in an undrafted free agent to fill a need. Someone like Onterrio McCalebb, who is fast and has return experience, would be worth a 7 or UDFA; you know, a one crease and he’s gone kind of guy. Return ability should also be a consideration (though not necessarily the decisive one) if we draft a speed position player like RB, WR or CB.

The Time is NOW

February 28th, 2013
8:35 pm

7) Is the OL still a high need or has it leveled out some?

In the NFL, it seems to me that many offensive line starters ride the bench for several years before they become starters. Normally, only a high round draft pick starts in his first year or two. Most teams do not rotate offensive linemen much. They keep the starting unit intact unless there are injuries or incompetence (such as we had at RG in 2011). The rest of the O-linemen on the roster don’t get to see the field very often. We have invested several draft picks on the OL in the last few years. I think we have players on the roster that the coaching staff feels comfortable with going forward. However, since the game is won or lost in the trenches, if an absolute stud OL falls to you picking 30 in the first round you might have to take him. You can never have too many quality linemen (on either side of the ball).

8.) How would you go about changing the RB backfield?

We need to add a RB in the draft. We should be able to find a quality back in the 4th round.

9) What should Falcons do if Gonzalez leaves?

Replace his catches with either Coffman or a slot receiver/TE draft choice. While the TE draft class is small at the top, there are a lot of project TE’s with very little observable difference in quality in the second tier. One of these players should still be available in the later rounds of the draft.