All-Football Friday! The questions facing the Falcons

From 2007, the saddest season on record, to 2008, among the happiest seasons ever: Was it really that easy? Just hire a new general manager and a new coach and sign a new tailback and draft a new quarterback and go from 4-12 to 11-5? This fall is when we find out. This fall we’ll learn if the Falcons are — borrowing a book title from the noted author Arthur M. Blank — built to last or just another one-year wonder. Other questions along that line:

• Is Matt Ryan really that good? So good he’s impervious to a sophomore jinx? So good he can make full use of all the accessories now at his disposal? Did his arm get tired near the end of last season, or did he reach the limit of his capacity?

• Will Michael Turner carry the ball fewer times with the addition of Tony Gonzalez? Will Mike Mularkey be tempted to run it less and throw it more? Given the rebuilding ongoing with the Falcons’ defense, shouldn’t the Falcons run it even more to keep their D off the field? Will Falcons ever make Jerious Norwood more than a curio?

• Will Roddy White’s contractual issues become more than a talking point? Will White gripe if he sees the ball less because Gonzalez is aboard? Will Gonzalez, as tight ends often do, become Ryan’s default receiver? Will Harry Douglas supplant Michael Jenkins as the No. 2 wideout?

• Is Sam Baker, who looked solid at left tackle before getting hurt last season, really an NFL-caliber left tackle? Is the offensive line as effective as Turner made it seem? Is Paul Boudreau, who coaches the O-line, the smartest guy on a staff laden with smart guys?

• Can John Abraham stay healthy? (Will we ever stop asking if John Abraham can stay healthy?) Who rushes the passer besides Abraham? Isn’t this the put-up or shut-up season for Jamaal Anderson? Is Chauncey Davis ready? Will rookie Lawrence Sidbury become the team’s second-best pass rusher? Can Peria Jerry fill the considerable breach left by Grady Jackson’s departure?

• Can Curtis Lofton make every tackle? Will Curtis Lofton have to make every tackle? Does Mike Peterson have anything left, or is he the new Ed Hartwell? Should the Falcons have drafted a linebacker higher than in Round 6?

Bradley's forecast of 10-6 for the Birds is:

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• Is second-year man Chevis Jackson a starting cornerback? Is rookie William Moore a starting safety? Is Von Hutchins, injured last season, more than a nickel back? Will Thomas Dimitroff again need to find defensive patches during training camp, as happened last season with Domonique Foxworth and Jamaal Fudge last season? Of the five defensive starters who left, will Foxworth be missed most?

• Is Mike Smith the next great NFL coach? Was his just a case of beginner’s luck? Didn’t Jim Mora also look savvy for a year? Will Smitty find it tougher to manage higher expectations? Will he be able to right his team if it doesn’t get off to a flying start?

• Will the toughened schedule undo the Falcons? Won’t it be rather different not playing Detroit in Week 1 and Kansas City in Week 3 this time? Given the team’s heightened profile, won’t every loss be magnified in a way that no loss in 2008 was?

• The question of questions: After 43 years in business, is this franchise finally going to post consecutive winning seasons?

Bradley says: The Falcons will go 10-6 — yes, that would constitute a second consecutive winning season — and win the NFC South.

(For your reading pleasure — or perhaps displeasure — the other two installments of my All-Football Friday are available online. Here are the questions facing Georgia Tech, and here are those facing Georgia.)

180 comments Add your comment

Alex H.

July 24th, 2009
2:44 pm

I like Mark’s predictions. Abraham must stay healthy. I think Lawrence Sidbury is going to be the next great Falcons DE.

wxwax

July 24th, 2009
2:45 pm

Story tips

‘Scuse me, pardon me, socccer crowd coming through

Visiting Premier League glamor boys Chelsea come to the United States to play friendlies, meaningless pre-season games. In Seattle, they sold out Safeco, 64,000 people. In Los Angeles, they and Inter Milan drew 81,000 people. In Baltimore tonight, the game is sold out. Who says the US isn’t soccer-friendly? Is this an aberration, or a sign that under the right circumstances Americans actually *gasp* enjoy soccer?

A Rose by any other name would stink as foul.

The vast majority of college football fans want a playoff. The vast majority of college football players want a playoff. Even some conference commissioners want a playoff. So why isn’t there a playoff? Money, of course. And who’s the grittiest defenders of the status quo? Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.. Why? Because of the Rose Bowl. Why hasn’t anyone made a big deal out of the fact that the Rose Bowl is the single biggest obstacle to a playoff? Why haven’t they been portrayed as the heavy in the ongoing game of money muscle that’s determining the future of college football?

Matty ICE

July 24th, 2009
2:46 pm

hwy, wxwax...

July 24th, 2009
2:53 pm

…they have made a big deal of the Rose Bowl keeping the whole system down – under what rock have you been living? And, what’s that got to do with the topic at hand?

BigTimeTECHFan

July 24th, 2009
2:57 pm

Ryan will be steady QB
TG will help but Turner will be MVP type player because TG opens up field a lot.
White very good, Jenkins will step up.

but

DB / DL / LB – who knows, to many questions
If good Falcons 11-4
If Bad Falcons 8-8

BigTimeTECHFan

July 24th, 2009
2:57 pm

correction 12-4

DawgFan

July 24th, 2009
2:58 pm

One of the most difficult schedules in the NFL will surely bring the Falcons down a bit. I think 10-6 is very realistic. The most important thing will be keeping the carries limited on Michael Turner. We don’t want the Burner burning out in late October. So long as Mike Smith is judicious with the play calling, and MattyIce avoid the sophomore slump, you should see a 10-win season.

Marcus

July 24th, 2009
3:01 pm

question overload. My eyes were spinning just reading the blog.

FreeMikeVick

July 24th, 2009
3:01 pm

Falcons fail this year with Ryan at QB. He was a fluke that got help form the NFL in an effort to make Falcons fans forget about the injustice served to Vick.

mountain_jim

July 24th, 2009
3:04 pm

Key to making it to 10-6 is no injuries to Ryan and Turner and few injuries on the OL, where depth is extremely thin.

wxwax

July 24th, 2009
3:05 pm

Jim Devany gets his share of criticism. And the Rose Bowl may be cited as an example of a sacrosanct bowl. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen it criticized for its activism in stymieing a playoff.

uga_b

July 24th, 2009
3:05 pm

Answers Facing the Falcons:

Loaded at offensive skill positions. LOADED. Think about this, you have possibly the best TE and FB in the NFL, a Top 5 RB, a Top 5 QB, a Top 5 WR, and potential Top 5 Number 3 WR in Harry Douglas. Pair that with a solid number 2 WR with good speed and you may have the most talent of any team in the league. Oh, and Norwood is lightning fast.

Culture. The Falcons have done a great job of creating a winning atmosphere where people want to come to work. This attracts not only Free Agents, but has let us keep people in house.

The NFL Draft. You draft the best DT and possibly the best Safety in the draft and are still able to fill needs and get a potential super star rush end, you have done well.

Coaching Staff. Look at their resumes. 2 guys with headcoaching experience and another Van Gorder who may get a look one day. Every year we keep these guys together is a blessing.

Defensive Speed and “Meanness”. Not sure meanness is a word, but I think these dudes are going to be mean. The overall speed on this team is much better, hopefully giving us a chance to run more stuff down and cause some turnovers.

Kicking Game. Best Punter in the league. One of the best field goal kickers of all time.

Whats not to like?

Powder Springs Jacket

July 24th, 2009
3:06 pm

I’m surprised Sonny Clusters didn’t go to school with Matt Ryan.

uga_b

July 24th, 2009
3:07 pm

RE: Matt Ryan; The kid was making his 4th read as a ROOKIE. Mike Vick wasn’t making his 2nd read as a 5-year Pro Bowl veteran.

Kenneth Klosowski

July 24th, 2009
3:08 pm

We’ll if they go all the way to the Super Bowl, they’ll properly face the Pittsburgh Steelers and dethrone them.

CamaroDave

July 24th, 2009
3:08 pm

HEY BRADY HOW COME U NEVER TLAK ABOUT DA DAWGS? I THING U R A HATER

bigeasy830

July 24th, 2009
3:09 pm

Matt Ryan’s performance in the last 4 regular season games and the play-offs is the type of performance you will see all season this season. Those last 4 regular season games plus the play-off game he threw 5 TDs and 7 INTs and his passer rating plummeted. His arm did not get tired, his armstrength was never that good, early in the season the opposing defenses blitz him alot leaving wide recievers wide open, but in the last 3 games the defenses played back and just cover the WRs. The window that Matt Ryan had to throw the ball in shrinked and he did not have the armstrngth to get the ball in that tight space. Lastly, Matt Ryan’s performance in Dec was just horrible. The Falcons won those games in December and made it to the play-off because of Michael Turner and in spite of Matt Ryan. Falcons record for 2009 4-12.

Falcons 4-12 in 2009
“Back To Life, Back To Reality”

JB

July 24th, 2009
3:09 pm

Here mike, here’s 80 million dollars, enjoy the best America has offer………no, I think I’ll go kill dogs and hang with my homies……………..people make their own decisions and live by them. He got off light.

JB

July 24th, 2009
3:10 pm

bigeasy……you are so wrong………..

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:12 pm

Why do the Falcons play so many team this year after their opponent’s week off.
Conspiracy anyone?

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:13 pm

Most of us wish Mike Vick well but want to move on.

FreeMikeVick

July 24th, 2009
3:14 pm

Bigeasy is right. The NFL secretly helped Ryan accell with the Falcons just to make Vick look even worse so they could justify turning their backs on him. Blank was behind this and with his money, he had no problems paying off the NFL. Now that last year is over, don’t expect Ryan to do anything but cry like the wittle baby he is!

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:15 pm

Big easy, spoken like a true Saints’ fan but u got your numbers backwards.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:16 pm

And I thought my conspircay was a little nutty.

Cameron

July 24th, 2009
3:17 pm

More questions, still no answers.

NCFalconFan

July 24th, 2009
3:19 pm

I just hope you are right Bradley!!!….

Jfreak

July 24th, 2009
3:20 pm

I think this team is built for the long haul. I seem them being a consistant winner for many years to come for one reason. They are a team! They have good parts that work together. Ryan is a question mark to some degree because we have all seen players fall off in their second year, but I’d guess he will continue to improve because there are good players around him. 10 – 6 seems reasonable and maybe a little better if we get a little lucky.

Good owner, Good coach, Good qb, Good rb, Good wr, Good te …. Defesne well that’s the million dollar question??

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:21 pm

Maybe MB is worn out blogging with the two arch rivals rabid fans.

Jfreak

July 24th, 2009
3:22 pm

FREEMIKEVICK, are you really that stupid or just full of hate? By the way Vick is free in case you haven’t noticed?? Idiot!

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:22 pm

The offense will be better but I’m worried the defense will be worse.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:24 pm

Peta, by the way, objected to Obama killing the fly. You really have to wonder about folks that extreme.

Mac

July 24th, 2009
3:26 pm

You nailed it MB. Is Jerry going to be a holdout?

FreeMikeVick

July 24th, 2009
3:26 pm

Hate? I was not the one to put an innocent man in jail.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:26 pm

I am wondering if TD didn’t clean house just a bit too much with the defense.

Mark Bradley

July 24th, 2009
3:27 pm

The defense, I’m guessing, will be worse at the start but better at the end. Which is the way you’d want it, I’d imagine.

bigeasy830

July 24th, 2009
3:27 pm

Robert Barron, I am not a Saints fan. I was born and raised in South GA. I use to be a Falcons fan, but have always been partial to the Steelers since they were the dominant team back when I first feel in love with football. But, I do believe that the Saints will give Carolina a run for their money in the South this year. If Greg Williams can influence that defense and the Saints D rank 14 or 15 out of 32 teams, then the Saints will win the South. The Falcons are “done son”, stick a fork in them. Monty Kiffin exposed Matt Ryan in the last Tampa Game. This is a copy cat league, after that the rest of the teams did the same. Matt Ryan needed to spend time improving his armstrength, watching film can’t help him improve that, and that is his weakness. Matt Ryan will play and be a bust like Danny Wuerffel if he did not improve that armstrength.

Sapan A.

July 24th, 2009
3:29 pm

Totally agree with uga_b….Falcon’s offense is LOADED!! But their defense is suspect. If they can find a way to step up….it should be a great season!! In any scenario I think Falcons have enough talent to win AT LEAST 9 games…..

Mac

July 24th, 2009
3:30 pm

By the way, I think quarterback Matt “Red” Ryan will not suffer a sophomore slump.

bigeasy830

July 24th, 2009
3:32 pm

I am glad you all are bringing up the Falcons defense. their biggest mistake was not paying Foxworth. he was a steal for the Ravens for 5 or 6 mil. Foxworth was close to being a shut down corner for you all. What are you all dependeing on Grimes or Houston to step up. I doubt if they can, both was burned like toast during last season.

Falcons 4-12 in 2009
“Back To Life, Back To Reality”

ATL. FALCON 101

July 24th, 2009
3:32 pm

First, get off of Vick”s jock. Second, he is no longer a Falcon and will never be back. Third, if you guys think the Falcons are going to be 4-12 then let me tell you they have free rehab for that kind of a problem. Falcons 11-5.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:34 pm

Big easy, if the Falcons were stayed the same, you might be right. Gonzo might be just the extra weapon Matt needs.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:36 pm

Big easy. You were a Falcons fan first? Sure sounds like a nasty divorce.

Sheriff Lobo

July 24th, 2009
3:36 pm

QUESTION # 6 FACING THE FALCONS:

How many players can stay out of jail this season?

dawes

July 24th, 2009
3:37 pm

the falcons will go 14 and 2 and win the nfc south and the super bowl

bigeasy830

July 24th, 2009
3:37 pm

You need your WR to have 96 catches not the TE. Gonzo as you called him had a great season for a 4-12 team last year. If he has over 80 catches this year, he will have a great season for a 4-12 team this year as well.

Falcons 4-12 in 2009
“Back To Life, Back To Reality”

DawgFan

July 24th, 2009
3:38 pm

“The NFL secretly helped Ryan accell(sic) with the Falcons just to make Vick look even worse so they could justify turning their backs on him. Blank was behind this and with his money, he had no problems paying off the NFL. Now that last year is over, don’t expect Ryan to do anything but cry like the wittle baby he is!”
Right. Just like they planeted evidence at Vick’s home to get him into even more trouble. Because we all know that the NFL hates it when people make money for them. Michael Vick actually got less than he deserved. Anyone who forces dogs to fight each other should be thrown to those very same dogs.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:38 pm

Sherriff Lobo, these ain’t the Bengals.

uga_b

July 24th, 2009
3:40 pm

Speaking of reality, is there really a Saints fan acting knowledgeable about winning? 8-8! We are great!

NCFalconFan

July 24th, 2009
3:40 pm

BIGEASY830, you have no idea what you are talking about……As fas as Foxworth it was not the money. He grew up in Baltimore and played college ball in Maryland. He wanted to be in Baltimore (look it up). I would rather have accuracy over arm strenght any day. I don’t care how big Favre’s arm, I am confident to say that he wish he could take back half of those 22 INT’s he threw last year, which lead the league.

Robert Barron

July 24th, 2009
3:41 pm

You’re a broken record dude. How about we talk midseason and see who has it right.