Bradley’s Buzz: A rosy consensus emerges on the Falcons

A team grows in Flowery Branch

In ESPN.com’s first power ratings of the 2009 season — technically, the 2009 season doesn’t begin for three months, but haven’t we learned that pro football is a year-round sport? — its panel of analysts pegs the Falcons as the NFL’s 11th-best team. (Thanks to reader Anthony Burnette for the tip.) But the Worldwide Leader didn’t become the Worldwide Leader by letting it go at that.

Each voter — there are 12, meaning ESPN has more NFL analysts than the number of players any NFL team can field at any given time — has his ballot broken down, and here’s where it gets interesting. Eleven put the Falcons between No. 7 and No. 13 in the 32-team league. The exception is esteemed former colleague Len Pasquarelli, who has the Falcons 20th.

The same Pasquarelli ranks Carolina No. 3, and the Panthers, who finished one spot above the Falcons overall, generated the widest spread of any team. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. had them 24th. Five of the 12 panelists rated the Falcons atop the NFC South.

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Bottom line: With New Orleans (No. 16 overall) and Tampa Bay (No. 27) not really figuring, the Falcons would seem to stand a good chance of winning their division. Which they’ve done only three times in their 43 years of existence.

And where, you’re asking, did ESPN rank the Falcons a year ago? Last in the league. Three spots behind Detroit, which finished 0-16.

From one Hokie to another Hokie

One forme Falcon went on John Thompson’s Washington D.C. radio show and was asked about a soon-to-be former Falcon. Of fellow Virginia Tech product Michael Vick, DeAngelo Hall said this, according to Sports Radio Interviews:

“I definitely think he deserves another chance to play in this league. I definitely think he can play. There’s a lot of quarterbacks that have jobs that don’t want to see him back in the league because they know that any time you have teams in divisions drafting players just to stop Michael Vick, that’s when you know the guy’s a game changer and help you win a lot of games.”

A likely Vick destination? San Francisco, said Hall, who’s now with Washington and who briefly played in the Bay Area himself.

Anybody got an outfielder for sale?

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Braves aren’t yet talking trade. (Link requires registration.) I spoke with GM Frank Wren yesterday — the fruits, so to speak, of that labor should be appearing on this blog within hours — and he said he “didn’t see any trade happening really quickly” but admitted his club has a clear offensive need.

More from Olney: “The market of quality corner outfielders available is very thin. Most who are available are seen as either too risky or too expensive.” Also this: “The Matt Holliday sweepstakes have not yet begun.”

Further down his list of links, Olney drops another name that we Atlantans will hear often between now and July 31st — Colorado right fielder Brad Hawpe. (Talking with the Denver media crew last week, their feeling was that he’ll be available.) But, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Hawpe has a funny contract: He’s signed through 2011, but if he’s traded he can void the final year and become a free agent after the 2010 season.

Oh, and here’s the link to esteemed former colleague Gordon Edes’ report on Yahoo! Sports that the Red Sox are scouting Jeff Francoeur. Boston’s reasoning: Their starting right fielder (J.D. Drew) has been hurting, and so has his backup (Rocco Baldelli). And that’s the way of the lopsided baseball world: The Braves can’t find three decent starting outfielders, while the Red Sox are shopping for a third-stringer in right.

Hawks on the ol’ draft clock

In his second NBA mock draft, Chad Ford of ESPN.com has the Hawks taking North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson (requires registration) with the 19th pick. (Last week Ford had them taking point guard Jeff Teague of Wake Forest.) Me, I think the Hawks would be delighted to find Lawson there when they select — delighted and shocked.

For purposes of comparison, Draft Express has the Hawks choosing Eric Maynor of VCU, while NBAdraft.net still goes with B.J. Mullens, the center from Ohio State.

The Evil Genius leaves L’il Kiffy agape!

Here’s a great item from Matt Hayes of Sporting News Today, one of many who covered the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., hoping for just such a sight: Steve Spurrier and Lane Kiffin waiting for an elevator, Spurrier turning and pointing to Kiffin, who …

Just click the link. You won’t be disappointed.

Late addition! BrewDawg takes over the Buzz!

Faithful correspondent BrewDawg and I see the John Smoltz issue differently. He thinks the Braves did the guy wrong, and I respectfully disagree. But BrewDawg has gone to the trouble to compile a list of links regarding Smoltz’s second rehab start, and I’d be a crumb if I didn’t post them up top in proper Buzz format.

So here, from Adam Kilgore of the Boston Globe, is a recap of Smoltz’s outing in Manchester, N.H., and here, from Dave D’Onofrio of the Concord Monitor, is a look at a possible complication: Young Clay Buchholz is tearing it up in Class AAA and might warrant a call-up ahead of Smoltz. And here, from FoxSports.com, is a report about two unnamed scouts who weren’t impressed with Smoltz on Tuesday.

75 comments Add your comment

mryan

May 28th, 2009
8:13 am

Great work, Mr. Bradley. I love reading updates on our home team and most of the fans that post comments make really interesting points as far as where this year. I can’t wait for these guys to play at home so we can cheer our whole team on! Anthony, thanks for the tip on our beloved Falcons. I believe we’ll be better this season even if the record doesn’t show it. Please Falcons, win back to back so they can’t hold this over our heads anymore.

lakerat

May 28th, 2009
8:13 am

I clicked the link and was sorely disappointed – what was the point – you could have just written the punch line since we have already heard or read the rest of the stuff written there.

matt_T

May 28th, 2009
8:19 am

Based on that photo, Hawpe would be a good fit here. Chipper has been missing a good hunting buddy since LaRoche was traded.

Baba O'Riley

May 28th, 2009
8:21 am

Interested to see which 19 teams Len Pasquarelli has rated above the Falcons.

Rufio

May 28th, 2009
8:38 am

Did Len accidently turn in his 2008 power rankings?

TommyP

May 28th, 2009
8:41 am

Francoeur for DeJesus of KC would make sense. I could see the Braves then flipping him in another deal. I see a 3-team deal going down in this Francoeur saga. Hard to deal a RF for a RF.

Hawpe is from LSU, right? He might not void that year in his contract if he goes to the South.

Don’t draft Mullens. Teague, Lawson or Maynor will do.

Michael

May 28th, 2009
8:50 am

God Bless Spurrier. He has been a master at baiting other coaches, teams and fans since Kiffin was in diapers. And now he’s just running circles around the kid. I’m glad his teams are pretty much irrelevant now so I can fully enjoy his antics without getting all P.O.’ed like back in his Florida days.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
8:56 am

Hawpe indeed played at LSU.

And thanks, MRyan.

Baba O'Riley

May 28th, 2009
9:01 am

Michael, the other USC may be irrevelant, but his team is still good enough to beat every team in the SEC East, except UF.

Mac

May 28th, 2009
9:17 am

I don’t pay a lot of attention to NFL experts. On SI.com a writer ranks the Falcons backfield … without factoring in Jerious Norwood, an omission, which in my opinion makes the analysis invalid.

Green tea

May 28th, 2009
9:40 am

Anybody who picks the Panthers 3rd best team in the NFL is an IDIOT. I mean hello, they resigned Jake Delhomo for like 6 years and $42M. That’s how you reward a guy who lays a complete EGG in a home playoff game against the Cardinals of all teams. AT HOME. As long as they have that loser at QB they will forever be a 2nd tier NFL team and I don’t care how well they run the ball. I live in Charlotte so I get all the Panther yap I can handle. It actually makes me want to puke. And on top of that my girflriend is a Panther fan and gets all in a hissy when I bad mouth them. Panthers #3? What a joke…

So let’s weigh this out. What are they basing this off of? if it’s last season’s playoff performance and aquisitions in the offseason how could you move the Panthers up and NOT have the Falcons int he top 10? We were in the game until Charlie Hustle Brookings blew that play with like 2:30 left in the game, and that was on the road with a rookie QB. The Panthers, well, you know how that one went for them. I’d be embarrassed to call them my team after that performance.

Ramblinwreck1378

May 28th, 2009
9:41 am

The Hawks drafting BJ Mullens is similar to them taking Shelden Williams. It’s dumb, Mullens is immature, and has not yet been battle tested. He played in the Big Ten for one year, and yes, he does have potential, but at this point, the Hawks are attempting to make a legitimate run at an Eastern Conference championship, not teaching a big man how to play basketball in the NBA. Take Lawson, who has proven he can win a championship and he knows how to win. Maybe even give up a little extra to make sure you get him.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
9:44 am

I don’t know nearly as much about the NFL as Lenny P. does, but if I had to pick the team most apt to crash this season, it’d be Carolina. The Panthers have been overrated for years, IMHO.

mryan

May 28th, 2009
9:50 am

I agree about Carolina. The Jake Delhomme we saw in the playoff game is the quarterback we’ll see this year especially if their running game gets shut down. That’s a big if though with the two headed monsters they have in the backfield. All I know is, when we emerge from the NFC South this yr, we’re going to be a lot tougher mentally.

Green tea

May 28th, 2009
9:50 am

What did Mr. Lenny have the Falcons doing last year with his preseason ranking? Better yet what did he have the Dolphins doing as well? All those guy’s preseason rankings and predictions are just as valid as yours and mine if you ask me. They are way off half the time and don’t even get me started on Peter King…

Obama hates Cheney's bald head the most

May 28th, 2009
9:54 am

DeAngelo Hall is a idiot and I don’t know why anyone cares what the hell he thinks or says.

That link was really drawn out, just tell us the punchline, which wasn’t that good.

Obviously Matt Williamson needs to be fired for a lack of knoweledge and general dumba$$ness.

DO NOT TRADE FRENCHY!!!FIRE TERRY PENDELTON!!!

GO DAWGS!!!

mryan

May 28th, 2009
9:55 am

In the interest of full disclosure, I almost wet myself watching the Falcons highlights on NFL Network the night before last. Brian Baldinger had some pinpoint analysis on our QB Matthew Ice and his 1st pass to M Jenkins was reason enough to believe in God ’cause he delivered us a genuine, purebred, no-nonsense, mature, confident leader in the locker room and in the community. Anyone with kids old enough to attend, please consider taking them to Matt Ryan’s camp. My kid’s only 4 and I still wanted to sign him up.

Obama hates Cheney's bald head the most

May 28th, 2009
9:58 am

AMEN on Peter King, his coffee bits and inflated ego make me want to slap him. The NFL is a crapshoot on who will do good and bad with 3/4 of the leauge. The talent is so good that the spreads are very small. Carolina will not do any better this year and I think Tampa Bay is on it’s way back to the 80’s.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
10:01 am

One difference between B.J. Mullens and Shelden: The Hawks are drafting 19th this season, not fifth.

And above I’ve posted a link to ESPN’s power ratings from preseason 2008, but I don’t believe Mr. Pasquarelli participated in that poll. The sunniest outlook any voter had then was that the Falcons would be the NFL’s 29th-best team.

[...] Mark Bradley | ajc.com – [...]

Curious George

May 28th, 2009
10:07 am

Uh, didn’t Terry Pendleton coach the 2008 MLB National League Batting Champion?

Gordon

May 28th, 2009
10:13 am

Any news on the vacancy on Hewitt’s staff? I would think if he was going to hire Keener it would already be done, since Keener is not with another team and is right here in Atlanta. Also, what are the chances that Lawal returns?

willdave

May 28th, 2009
10:14 am

Don’t expect the so-called experts to show the Falcons any respect. I’m not surprised to see the relatively low expectations for this team that went 11-5 last year, made the playoffs and almost won the division. Everyone is fully aware that, in their 43-year history, the Birds have never posted back-to-back winning seasons. Thus, the naysayers anticipate the usual breakdown in 2009.

I, however, am optimistic that Dimitroff and Smitty have this team on the right course. They have addressed and will continue to address the deficiencies from last year’s 11-5 squad. They have drafted and signed defensive stars like crazy over the offseason. Matt Ryan has already elevated himself to being one of the best QBs in the league. Michael Turner provides a solid running game. Jerious Norwood brings big-play potential to the field every time he touches the ball. Tony Gonzalez, one of the greatest TEs to ever play the game, has been added to this roster. I could go on.

Last year, when many predicted the Falcons to win only one game in 2008, I predicted them to finish no worse than .500, probably better. Turned out that I knew my home team better than the so-called experts. This year, I’m predicting that, despite their tougher schedule, the Falcons will finish no worse than 12-4 in 2009. That’s right. 12-4 at least! I believe in TD, Smitty, Ryan, Turner and crew. GO FALCONS!!!

Baba O'Riley

May 28th, 2009
10:23 am

Chipper’s dad coached last year’s NL batting champ.

Mac

May 28th, 2009
10:30 am

Unless a trade for an outfiield bat can be made that is a longterm solution and not a one-year rental, I hope the Braves don’t pull the trigger. They are likely not that one player away from a World Series. It is a problem, but maybe one whose answer is in the system, but not on the big league club, now. Don’t mortgage 2010 and beyond for a wildcard shot this year.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
10:30 am

I think somewhere around 10th is about right for the Falcons. Then again, I thought I was being fanciful when I picked them to go 5-11 last time when most everybody else was saying 4-12 or (gulp) worse.

I don’t know what Tech is doing about an assistant coach, Gordon. The consensus on Gani Lawal is that he’s gone.

1eyedJack

May 28th, 2009
11:11 am

I am not sold on TP as a batting coach, and definitely not a manager. You rate a batting coach on his body of work and the results. Not many good results here. He either couldn’t figure out Andruw Jones or Andruw didn’t trust anything he said and ignored him. Frenchy came into the league like a house afire, though too aggressive, but that was his style. TP and others, probably well meaning, tried to change his approach and look how that worked out. Screwed his head up. Now he has to go to the Texas batting coach to try and get straightened out. Chipper and BMac are as good as they are because they came into the league with great fundamentals. Both have fathers that are better hitting coaches than TP. It’s time for a change. There is too much talent on this team to be this bad. Get rid of TP before he has a chance to screw up Heyward or Freeman.

PMC

May 28th, 2009
11:21 am

Every year the hot team from the last season is exalted. The Falcons could but might not have the best chance to win the division this year. They would have to get lucky on defense. The Panthers return virtually everyone from a 12 and 4 season last year and we need to jump out on New Orleans early. 9-7 or 10-6 and the playoffs would be a good year next year as we bring the rookies into play on defense and shore up that side of the ball.

Green tea

May 28th, 2009
11:23 am

PMC they still have Jake Delhomo under center. If Carolina didn’t have Steve Smith to bail them out at the end of games with his circus catches they wouldn’t even have made the playoffs last year.

PMC

May 28th, 2009
11:24 am

It just kind of depends on which Panthers QB shows up and whether New Orleans can weather a month of suspensions early on thier two probably best defensive players.

The Falcons will need to play from ahead, but they superbly upgraded thier ability to come from behind adding Tony G’s. Like last year… we will NEVER be out of games until they are over.

PMC

May 28th, 2009
11:26 am

The thing with Delhomme is that they have a great running game so if they can run which they have all over us the last few years the passing game just opens up. Carolina is thin upfront so stuffing the box and forcing the pass will be a good thing hopefully especially if they can keep getting after Delhomme who is bound to make a few stupid mistakes.

THe moves they made in the secondary should allow for more tipped balls and interceptions/fumble recoveries that we haven’t had the last several years.

brewdawg

May 28th, 2009
11:36 am

Here is my request for the next buzz. I want links to everything Smoltz is doing in his rehab. We get basically hour by hour updates on Mike Vick, who single-handedly destroyed his team, and crushed many of his fans (me included). Not to mention there is no guarantee he will ever set foot on an NFL football field again. So I think it would be proper to get more coverage on Smoltzie’s progress, who meant so much to this city, and to the Braves organization, only to be so unceremoniously cast aside. As for this buzz? Solid stuff as usual Mr. Bradley.

Green tea

May 28th, 2009
11:38 am

There is just no way they are a top 5 team heading into this season. No way. This Peppers mess hasn’t even gotten ramped up yet. Just wait til that circus kicks off…

Baba O'Riley

May 28th, 2009
11:42 am

Who did the casting? Smoltz or the Braves?

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
11:43 am

I agree. The Peppers issue could get divisive.

And thanks, BrewDawg. But, when last I checked, Vick is still on the Falcons’ roster. Don’t believe the pitcher you mentioned is employed by an Atlanta team any longer.

Green tea

May 28th, 2009
11:52 am

OK, I just threw up in my trash can here at work, no more Panthers talk…

Rob

May 28th, 2009
11:54 am

Pre-season ratings are worthless in my opinion. Injuries are a big piece of a team’s success every year. The Falcons are now in good hands, as far as management and coaching. If they stay healthy, they should finally have back to back winning seasons. At least the outlook is much more promising than it was at this time last year…

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
11:56 am

Preseason ratings are indeed guesswork. But they’re still fun to read, wouldn’t you say?

brewdawg

May 28th, 2009
11:57 am

You win this round Mr. Bradley. But I’ll break you yet.

Rob

May 28th, 2009
12:05 pm

It’s always interesting to hear what the experts have to say. Recently, I was in a waiting room and picked up a sports mag from last summer. They were covering the NFL and every “expert” picked the Falcons to finish dead last in their division. As Berman says: “That’s why they play the game”.

Marcus

May 28th, 2009
12:10 pm

I don’t see any player-hating on the Falcons if we are outside the top 10. Most of them have no prevailing interest either way on our success oor failure. Look at this way:
1. the Falcons have an appreciably harder 2009 schedule as compared to 2008(based on previouis years final records/win %) in laying the NFC East and AFC East, and playing last years’ 2nd place teams from the NFC West 9SF) and NFC Central (CHI). Most of the “cinderellas from last year are predicted to have a harder ‘09 (Dolphins, Ravens – see point No. 3)
2. We have unproven youth on D with an expectations of lightning striking twice (similar to ‘08 with impact rookies and new starters) and in our history have not had back-to-back winning seasons. That can’t be ignored.
3. Like someone said, the NFL it set up for parity and someone else could be a dark horse/ worst-to-first story this year.

Jeff

May 28th, 2009
12:14 pm

I agree with 1-eye jack on our batting coach TP.Tell me who he has turned around??? Trade Francour and he will be a star again….

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 28th, 2009
12:57 pm

I clicked the link and was sorely disappointed – what was the point – you could have just written the punch line since we have already heard or read the rest of the stuff written there.

Yeah, me too.

Old Dawg

May 28th, 2009
1:10 pm

It may take a few games for the new defensive players to adjust to the NFL, but once they do their youth will enable them to weather the long season. The addition of Tony Gonzalez at tight end will play really well with the Falcons running/play-action phase on offense, which will open passing lanes from Ryan to the wide receivers.

You never know how all these things work out, at the same time I have a really good feeling about this year. The only thing the Falcons REALLY need is to go back to the Glanville era uniforms. What they wear now is disgusting!

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
1:16 pm

Again, with a tougher schedule and a revamped defense, I think 10th sounds reasonable. But first in the NFC South.

Hollywould

May 28th, 2009
1:19 pm

Mark, Is there a certain time for the Falcons to release Vick? If he signs with another team are the Falcons off the hook on the cap?

brewdawg

May 28th, 2009
1:21 pm

You don’t have to do it Mr. Bradley, but I can- or at least allow people to copy and paste these into their browsers. I do not know how to do fancy blog things. Oh, and one of these is less than glowing of Smoltz. I’m nothing if not fair.

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/9616828/Scouts-say-Smoltz-struggled-in-rehab-start

http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090528/SPORTS/905280399

http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090528/SPORTS/905280399

Kentavo

May 28th, 2009
1:22 pm

Hawpes Hops (bottles of a hoppy IPA) can join McCann’s Cans!

brewdawg

May 28th, 2009
1:23 pm

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2009
1:25 pm

Whatever happened to McCann’s Cans, anyway?

Thanks, BrewDawg. Your even-handedness is noted and applauded.

As for Vick: I imagine the Falcons are again waiting to see if Roger Goodell suspends him. No need to release him if he’s not being paid.