The good news: The Falcons have five really good players, according to Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com. The not-so-good: Only one of them is a defender. That’d be John Abraham, ranked 92nd.
The others: Roddy White is 56th, Tony Gonzalez 47th and Matt Ryan 43rd. And Michael Turner is the highest-rated Bird at No. 38, which seems low for a guy who tied for second in the MVP voting. And I was surprised to see Turner rated below DeAngelo Williams, Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer. But quibbling isn’t why I’m here, at least not today. I come to highlight a theme.
The 2009 Falcons will be outstanding on offense, less so on D. The defense is young and reworked, and that’s not bad in and of itself. Last season’s unit was no colossus. (Remember third-and-16 in the desert? Yow.) But, if it was time for Keith Brooking and Michael Boley and Lawyer Milloy and maybe even lovable Grady Jackson to leave, it will nonetheless take time for their replacements to settle.
I see some 40-37 games coming this season, maybe three or four. Do I think the Falcons can win enough of those to take the NFC South? Yes, I do. But winning only because you’re scoring big is a tough way to go, especially when the head coach is a former defensive coordinator. And I note a precedent in Falcons history of a team overloaded on O that failed to fulfill its manifest destiny.
From 1980 through 1983 the Falcons had eight different players named to the Pro Bowl a total of 21 times. Not one of those played defense, and it was the defense that undid all the offensive names — Bartkowski, Andrews, Jenkins, Miller, Kenn, Thielemann, Van Note and Billy White Shoes. It was the defense that couldn’t hold Dallas in that bitter playoff loss at the old stadium, the defense that couldn’t halt the Vikings in the Metrodome in Leeman Bennett’s final game atop Rankin Sr.’s plateau.
Understand: I’m not faulting Thomas Dimitroff’s reconstruction. He had a whole team to fix when he arrived 17 months ago, and he has gotten half of it right. The other half, which was the focus of the draft just past, will take a little longer.
In the interim, I’d advise you to fasten your seat belts. To borrow from that famous nickel back Bette Davis, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.