Falcons’ additions will get them back into playoffs

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The drafting of Sean Weatherspoon is one of the moves by Thomas Dimitroff that will get the Falcons back in the playoffs. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Two years ago, we expected too little. One year ago, we expected too much. So it’s safe to conclude that even with all that Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have accomplished during their brief reign with the Falcons, they’ve managed to keep at least one tradition in tact: The team is still keeping us guessing.

But not this time.

Last month, they signed a legitimate cornerback (Dunta Robinson). This allowed the Falcons to cut back on its janitorial stuff because now somebody won’t have to run onto the field to sweep up the ashes after every opponent’s pass play.

Then came the draft. They needed an outside linebacker who could drop into coverage, help create some mayhem on the pass rush and, if at all possible, hit somebody. They found Sean Weatherspoon. They needed linemen on both sides of the ball. They took a defensive tackle and two guards with their next three picks. Think of a draft as you would an exam. Nobody is guaranteeing an A. But at least we know the Falcons studied the right chapters for the test.

Do you agree that the Falcons will make the playoffs next season?

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At the very least, they will make the playoffs. If body parts don’t spontaneously combust as a year ago, they are capable of doing something special.

If reading that leaves you cross-eyed, think of this: What were the expectations of the New Orleans Saints a year ago when they were coming off two non-playoff seasons and a record of 15-17? Super Bowl champions?

Dimitroff isn’t the type to make guarantees. The most he would allow Saturday was: “There’s no question people should have expectations. Very solid expectations. We feel we’re going in the direction of a team that will be a perennial playoff contender.”

They went 11-5 when everything right. They went 9-7 when so much went wrong. Think about that: nine wins in a bad year. And then consider this:

♦ The schedule will be significantly easier in 2010. The combined record of opponents (127-129) ranks 20th, compared to last year’s schedule (150-105-1), which ranked fourth. Also, three outdoor road games in cold-weather cities – Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia – all take place by mid-October. No snow.

♦ Logic says the Falcons will have better fortune on the injury front. Last year wiped out the seasons of Peria Jerry, William Moore and Brian Williams early, and dented Michael Turner and Matt Ryan late.

♦ Look around the NFC: Philadelphia jettisoned Donovan McNabb and will be transitioning to an untested Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Arizona saw Kurt Warner retire, which means Matt Leinart just lost his safety net. The Eagles and Cardinals are two of last season’s six NFC playoff teams. The Dallas Cowboys’ schedule is ranked as the most difficult in the conference and No. 3 in the league (opponents’ record of 139-117). The Saints will still be good. But they open against Minnesota, play at Dallas on Thanksgiving and have four night games on their slate — “rewards” for being a marquee team.

The Falcons are not without questions. Sam Baker hasn’t proved he’s worthy of being a starting left tackle, let alone a first-round pick. Defensive end John Abraham has to stay healthy (and preferably visible). There is a significant drop-off at wide receiver from No. 1 (Roddy White) to whomever is No. 2 (Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, street free agent to be named later).

Also, there’s the Matt Ryan question: Were the bumps in Year 2 just normal signs of the NFL learning curve?

Dimitroff wouldn’t call 2009 a step back, saying only, “We learned a lot about a very young football team.”

Then he reiterated, “People should have expectations that the arrow is pointing up. It’s not static or sideways.”

High expectations seem safe this time.

Earlier Falcons draft posts

Falcons still need linemen (and Weatherspoon video-palooza)

Weatherspoon helps Falcons fix the right side of the ball

Draft night (LIVE): Behind the scenes at Falcons’ HQ

Draft day (Part II): Tebow top 15, Morgan to Falcons?

Draft day (Part I): Falcon options; Berry rips Deion; Tebow to Vikes?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

325 comments Add your comment

Matthew

April 24th, 2010
3:39 pm

First.
Also, I have never heard of any of the Falcons’ picks as a Georgia fan that keeps up with college football. However, I trust Dimitroff and Mike Smith to make the moves to get the Falcons in the playoffs. I would have liked for them to pick a few ‘names’ in the later rounds, though. Jeff, what grade would you put on this draft?

t larry

April 24th, 2010
3:40 pm

falcondawg

April 24th, 2010
3:40 pm

I am a little nervous about the draft but am willing to give TD the benefit of the doubt. We need to make the playoffs this year or he will start to feel the pressure

t larry

April 24th, 2010
3:41 pm

Well maybe second

falcon fan

April 24th, 2010
3:42 pm

I like this draft, my only question was the safety pick.

louisville slugger

April 24th, 2010
3:44 pm

Pretty good draft, I think. I would have like to see them take a flyer on Myron Rolle with the last pick, though…

Jonestown Falcon

April 24th, 2010
3:47 pm

Mmmmm…I love Kool – Aid.

chem

April 24th, 2010
3:48 pm

Schultz, how do you judge a left tackle’s performance?

Jonathan Dwyer | Ifdny

April 24th, 2010
3:49 pm

[...] and has rushed for 1395 yards in each of the past two seasons. Fox Sports reported that he testedJonathan Dwyer – Pick 188: The Steelers chose Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer. He was the ACC player of the year in [...]

john Falcon

April 24th, 2010
3:56 pm

Sorry not at all impressed with this draft especially due to the talent passed up. Spoon, Peters, Johnson, Franks solid picks but we passed up on good excellent speed in DE/WR. This draft will haunt us and I question why we took 7th Round talent in the 4th and 5th Rounds?

In one draft we have been immediately passed up by our NFC South opponents, Tampa especially. And we did nothing to improve our speed except for Spoon.

D-Man

April 24th, 2010
3:56 pm

No doubt there will be some additional defensive packages drawn up that will take advantage of the flexibility of Sean Weatherspoon. I think TD just decided that there are more benefits to getting an OLB with his makeup that could do many things. I can see Weatherspoon rushing the QB often. Maybe that will get some help for our secondary. We’ll see!

HANGMAN

April 24th, 2010
3:57 pm

My question is were then any quality name players available when they started taking all these unknown players? If so….why were they passed over?

William

April 24th, 2010
3:58 pm

The Falcons Draft was so bad that ESPN hasn’t even mentioned the team once today.

Daniel Bell

April 24th, 2010
4:06 pm

Stop fretting over “quality name players.” I prefer substance over hype, and so do the officials making picks for the Falcons.

gcs

April 24th, 2010
4:07 pm

need to get a kicker
Go get Leigh Tiffin

.

J-MAN

April 24th, 2010
4:08 pm

Well espn is too busy covering Dan Levever and Jimmy Claussen and Colt McCoy waiting in the draft to cover the Falcons

wayne

April 24th, 2010
4:08 pm

NOT A GOOD DRAFT. IT SUCKS–WHERE IS THE HELP AT WIDE RECEIVER, WHERE IS THE HELP AT RUNNING BACK. WHERE IS THE HELP AT OFFENSIVE LINE??? WHERE WERE THE FALCON BRASS WHEN THE DRAFT WAS HELD.

J-MAN

April 24th, 2010
4:09 pm

WE NEED A KICKER……. Brandon Coutu

Eric

April 24th, 2010
4:10 pm

ESPN didn’t have time to talk about the falcons because they spent all their time talking about Tebow and Clausen. Man I am soooooo tierd of hearing about them. I can’t wait for Clausen to play the Falcons. I hope we knock his head off.

J-MAN

April 24th, 2010
4:11 pm

I’m saying Get Alan Fanaca and go after Osi Umenyiora

J-MAN

April 24th, 2010
4:12 pm

And yea I’ll say it we need T.O.

Eric

April 24th, 2010
4:13 pm

I hate people who type in ALL CAPS, ESPECIALLY WHWN THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HE11 THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. Dude, we got two offensive lineman, and we don’t need a running back.

WreckinBall

April 24th, 2010
4:14 pm

First off, Matt Ryan had a pretty darn good 2nd season under the circumstances of 2009. He was injured, he played injured, his Oline was injured, and played injured. He had very little time in many of the games before the defense of opponent was in his face. If the Falcon’s can give him time for the receivers to run their routes and the plays to develope, I don’t believe even Shultz are any of his disciples will have room to critize him.

mudcat

April 24th, 2010
4:17 pm

john Falcon is correct. We consistantly passed up higher rated talent in rounds 3 thru 5 for lower rated talent. I detect a degree of arrogance here. “I can judge talent better than the experts!?!” I just don’t know about this. Thankfully, we have a VERY easy schedule, which will put us in the playoffs. Go Birds!

Barkin'Dog

April 24th, 2010
4:17 pm

Wayne… here’s your receiver… he’s MONEY!
Kerry Meier top 12 receiver 2010 NFL Draft
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv8Rd72uXvU
He’s a great possession receiver!
Tough catches over the middle, behind him and layout catches.
Contributed to 44 TD passes in 2 years at KU.
Caught the game-winning TD vs a great Missouri team in 2008 (35-33) with 27 sec. left.
Watch this gadget play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTdvzgBNlOE&feature=related
Spend a little time at YouTube, and you’ll LEARN what TD already knew.

Not Don Waddell

April 24th, 2010
4:17 pm

Look at how much better every other team in the division got in the draft. Carolina had an INCREDIBLE draft.

The Falcons did not improve themselves much at all. The “boy wonder” has been exposed as a guy who got really lucky by taking Matt Ryan over Dorsey.

If you were to simply re-arrange that pick, how would we look upon Dimitroff’s tenure?

This year’s schedule will be much easier than last, but the Falcons did not address their biggest need, which was LT, although Bulaga was sitting their waiting for them at the 19th pick. Matt Ryan will continue to sustain injuries and the Falcons will continue to struggle to compete in the Southeast Division.

hiramsaint

April 24th, 2010
4:21 pm

ryan was not injured, he faked an injury so as not to be embarassed by vick in the dome then used it as a lame excuse for poor performances the rest of the year. sorry schultz but no playoffs again but perhaps another WINNING SEASON !

Jonathan Dwyer

April 24th, 2010
4:23 pm

[...] Butler from Clemson, and RB Jonathan Dwyer from Georgia Tech. Butler has the size and speed youJonathan Dwyer – Due to my familiarity with the ACC, I also think they got good players with the additions of CB [...]

Dawgs2010

April 24th, 2010
4:25 pm

I agree with the picks as far drafting positions of need, but when they were picked is what bothers me. These players could have been had in later rounds.

I guess I just don’t get “it”.

Tha Real Falcon

April 24th, 2010
4:25 pm

Agree this draft is a bit iffy. You don’t draft kickers, you sign them as free agents.
Looks like we reached in the 3rd round. Guess we didn’t need a DE after we let Alex Brown go to the Saints. Hmm…
Where is the pass rush coming from?

drew

April 24th, 2010
4:26 pm

i like the picks but we could have gotten better in those spots. peters and johnson in the third? u have to be kidding. they r good players who will start someday 2 years from now but not to be taken in the third. espeacially since we didnt have a pick in the second. this reminds me of the raiders or jacksonville. oh and that safety that nfl.com doesnt even have a picture, hieght, or wieght for. ummm lets see, greg hardy, liegh tiffin, brandon lang, dekoda watson, jeff owens, kade weston, a rb, a te, i mean come on. any of these would have been better than a white safety from montana. wtf.

Tha Real Falcon

April 24th, 2010
4:28 pm

Hawley:

Weaknesses

Loses leverage since he is not a natural knee bender and will struggle to handle the bull rush at the next level. Does not have the pure strength to push people around in the run game and lacks a strong punch to shock defenders. Takes too many false steps and struggles to fight off counter moves in pass protection

Chemcat

April 24th, 2010
4:29 pm

Who cares what ESPN thinks. They were saying in 2008 that the Falcons were making a mistake by picking Ryan over that defensive tackle that nobody remembers the name of now, oh yeah Glenn Dorsey. (disclaimer, I wanted Dorsey too). Injuries on defense hurt us last year and if Jerry, Moore, and Williams are healthy this year you’ll see a much better defense. The addition of Dunta is key. I believe in Biermann and Sidbury to increase production also. Even with the injuries we would have won 2 more games and made the playoffs if Elam had done the job he was supposed to do. This will be a tight, well honed, and as mistake free team as Smitty and the rest of the coaches can make it. You have to have players that buy in to the program and play together and I think this organization has it, much like the Steelers, Patriots, Colts, and God forbid the Saints now have.

Seriously?

April 24th, 2010
4:29 pm

Not Don, did you even watch a Falcons game last year? LT was their biggest need? Unless our LT can rush the QB, I’d say pass defense (rush and coverage) was the top priority, which it appears we addressed.

Having said that, I would like to hear why we passed up on higher-ranked guys (according to the so-called experts) at the same positions we drafted…

Tha Real Falcon

April 24th, 2010
4:30 pm

Meier

Weaknesses

Meier lacks the top end speed desired from starting receivers. Will not threaten defenses deep down the field. Doesn’t have the explosiveness to eat up cushions. Lacks the burst out of his breaks to separate. Will not gain much after the catch.

Maybe our heir apparent to Tony G?

Supes

April 24th, 2010
4:30 pm

This is a very questionable draft Jeff,

Don’t try to spin it. I guess we’ll see in 2-3 years time, but I think they went “safe” and “reached” far too many times.

Delbert D.

April 24th, 2010
4:31 pm

“Look at how much better every other team in the division got in the draft.”

Really? They were so cocky they took a basketball player at #3.

bigdawg

April 24th, 2010
4:31 pm

Remember when the Falcons passed on Marcus Allen and took Gerald Riggs? Remember last year when Percy Harvin was supposed to have all those “off-field” problems. All he did was win ROY! The Falcons will regret not taking Dez Bryant for years to come. We could’ve made a quantum leap forward as an offense with Bryant! But, no, we run like scared schoolgirls away from anyone with so-called “problems.”
Still love my Birds, but to let Bryant get away was egregious!

Steve Jones

April 24th, 2010
4:31 pm

I disagree with you Jeff. We didnt draft all of our needs. We didnt draft a defensive end. This team needed to draft an animal to replace the bust in Jamal Anderson and to evenually replace Abraham but it didn’t. Why did we draft another corner when we have Robinson, Williams, Owens, Jackson, and Grimes?? I’d like to hear these questions answered in the press conference. I like the lineman picks and Weatherspoon but we still should have gotten a DE.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

April 24th, 2010
4:33 pm

Some of you folks need to take a “CHILL PILL”.

Anyone remember the name Jesse Tuggle….pause for reflection…..well he was an unknown name too (not drafted) back in the day but look what he accomplished in the NFL as a Falcon. So y’all need to quit tripping so much about name recognition requirement because it does not necessarily lead to success in the NFL.

bigdawg

April 24th, 2010
4:33 pm

Who was the last caucasian to make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro as a wide receiver? My point is…well, you get my point!

InbredDawg

April 24th, 2010
4:34 pm

If you are a Georgia fan who “keeps up with college football” and have never heard of an all-SEC DT and Alabama’s All-American lineman with 36 straight starts, well, maybe you should pay a little closer attention.

Lame Pick

April 24th, 2010
4:34 pm

This draft is such a epic fail that a new term will have to be invented to adequately try to describe the level of epic fail Dimitroff has achieved in this draft. It has been so pathetic that it has actually been a riot making of this farce called a draft…but alas you must excuse me now as I have to select a new NFL team to root for.

san diego dawg

April 24th, 2010
4:34 pm

First time I’ve completely agreed with Jeff. This team drafted what they needed. They needed more steak to go with the sizzle they already have. I still think Norwood will see time at the slot receiver this year. Another 11-5 season (or better) is very possible.

collegeballfan

April 24th, 2010
4:36 pm

Football is still a game of blocking and tackling. You are never wrong in stockpiling linemen on both sides of the ball.

Spectacular & exciting plays win fans. Good solid defense wins games. Outstanding blocking wins championships.

This was really a good draft by the Falcons.

Not Don Waddell

April 24th, 2010
4:36 pm

Seriously,

we can win games with our offense as long as Ryan is healthy and upright. To win in the NFL, you must have a very good QB and a very good LB or you can have an all-time great defense.

The Falcons are a lot closer to being great on offense than they are on defense. The only thing they are lacking is an elite LT and a 3rd WR. Hopefully Douglas will stay healthy at WR. Baker will not stay healthy at LT. That will leave us with Clabo and Hacksaw Reynolds at OT. No chance Ryan does not get hurt behind that line.

What do the Colts do nearly every year in the draft? They bolster an already great offense. Same with Saints. You get great on one side of the ball, and try to put just enough together on the other side of the ball to win games.

ryan

April 24th, 2010
4:38 pm

Yea there still some good free agents out there Antonio Pierce is out there plus his team mate Osi . Stay away from T.O. but Roy E. Williams is avaible.

Not Don Waddell

April 24th, 2010
4:39 pm

Pardon me, I meant to say LT instead of LB in the 1st paragraph.

In fact, LB’s don’t matter at all. Can anyone here name the Saints pair of starting OLB’s last year? Look it up, and once you see who they were, you will realize how stupid it is to waste the 19th pick on an OLB.

Mr Charlie

April 24th, 2010
4:39 pm

We got a reciever who can actually catch, Image if “Gay Gay” could catch, I would be reading “31-30″.

Archie

April 24th, 2010
4:41 pm

I’m incredibly disappointed in this draft! We didn’t get ANYTHING to help us put any more points on the board. You gotta remember, last year’s 1st and 2nd round pick missed the season with injury, so we’re getting those guys back. So in the critical period of the draft in rounds 2 through 4, we took another depth guys at DL (same position you drafted in the first round last year) and depth at OL where our 28 teams gave up more sacks than ours last year. Instead, you left impact players on the board like Jordan Shipley and Marty Gilyard on the board, guys who can catch passes and return kicks and produced big results in big games. By not drafting anybody at receiver or running back, they’r saying that none of these guys are better than Eric Weems or Jason Snelling?!?!? There’s simply no way a guy like Corey Peters or Mike Johnson improves your team more than a playmaker at WR or RB.