Say this for the newfangled Falcons: They don’t lie. They tell you what they plan to do, and then they do it. On the day Mike Smith became their coach, he said he wanted to run the ball and to stop the run. Last season his team managed half that. Round 1 of the 2009 draft was the first step toward getting the other half right.
“You want someone who can create double-teams and unblocked situations,” Smith said Saturday, and in Peria – pronounced Per-RAY – Jerry, they believe they’ve found a newer and better and (slightly) sleeker Grady Jackson. And we on the periphery have no reason to doubt them. They’ve gotten pretty good at this talent-identification thing.
Already the Falcons are better than they were when they walked off in the field in Glendale, Ariz. They have a Pro Bowl tight end who will make a good offense better still, and now they have a defensive anchor.
There can be no real quibbles with this pick. (Not even from this observer, who favored Evander Hood for the selfish reason that a lineman nicknamed Ziggy would be worth his tonnage in puns.) They said they were going to upgrade their defense, and they determined the upgrading should begin at the heart.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Sometimes we confuse smart with clever, but the two aren’t the same. Being clever can sometimes lead to overthink, which can lead to trouble. The newfangled Falcons are meat-and-potatoes smart. They see football as a simple game, and they’ve taken a simple approach to getting better.
Said Thomas Dimitroff, the architect: “We wanted to be stronger and faster and more aggressive and more urgent.”
Said Smith, the foreman: “We wanted someone who would be very disruptive.”
Granted, it’s a new sensation. Mindful of Aundray Bruce and Steve Broussard and Bruce Pickens and Reggie Kelly, we’re accustomed to approaching every Falcons draft with a dollop of dread. We should stop sweating. This franchise is in good hands. Matt Ryan was the perfect pick at the ideal moment, and the rest of the 2008 draft was nearly as inspired. And now the big man from Ole Miss arrives to plug the middle.
Dimitroff again: “He’s country-strong. He’s a 1-gap guy with a high motor.”
First Michael Turner, then Matt Ryan, then Tony Gonzalez, now Peria Jerry. That’s four major acquisitions in 15 months for the new regime, and every one of them makes unassailable sense. Given that the first three play offense, this draft had to be given over to D, and Jerry was the soundest possible start. In Round 2 the Falcons found a safety in William Moore of Missouri, and they’ll surely seek a linebacker and a cornerback come Sunday. But you must grab an accomplished run-stuffer where you find him.
A good team a year ago, the Falcons have positioned themselves to be better in 2009. (Though their record, owing to the stiffer schedule, might not be quite so glittering.) They’re building from the inside out, which is always the way to go if you want your construction to endure.
And this one will. These are not your dad’s Falcons, who trafficked in gimmicks, or even your older brother’s. These are the new Falcons. These are the smart Falcons.