In the grand scheme, maybe Saturday’s exhibition was the right game at the right time. The Falcons themselves weren’t just surprised by what transpired; they were shocked. But it happened 15 days before the first for-real game, which means there’s still time for some last-minute shopping.
Afterward, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said: “It’s going to be a very busy two weeks.” He would say no more, but the message seemed cleared enough: This is the man who found Domonique Foxworth and Jamaal Fudge near the end of preseason 2008 to prop up his secondary. There seems a strong need to do something similar now.
The Falcons liked everything about cornerback Chris Houston in training camp: His preparation, his attitude, his play. But something happened in Saturday’s first half: Houston yielded one big play on third down, then another, then another. If a guy’s going to be your No. 1 cornerback, that can’t happen. Even No. 1 corners get beat — all corners get beat — but they can’t let one bad play put them on the back foot the rest of the night.
The Falcons must now determine if Houston has the toughness to shrug off a big gainer and keep playing. He seemed to lose his edge against the Chargers, and if he’s incapable of regaining that edge from one play to the next the Falcons need to know it now.
Dimitroff watches the waiver wire. He knows who’s unsigned. (Chris McAlister, to name one former stellar cornerback. But he’s coming off knee surgery.) He knows other teams must make cuts, too. The trade for Foxworth seemed insignificant at the time, but he wound up starting.
The Foxworth/Fudge acquisitions didn’t resonate at the time was because almost nobody figured the 2008 Falcons would be good enough for such late transactions to matter. There’s much more pressure on Dimitroff to do something now. This team is coming off a playoff run and has added an All-Pro tight end. The Falcons believe their future is bright, yes, but that includes the immediate future.
As Mike Smith, who tried hard to accentuate the positives, said Saturday: “We’ve got a lot of work to do … It’s not one unit; it’s a team defense. It starts up front and goes from the linebackers to the secondary, and there was not one group that succeeded on third-and-long.”
That could, and I expect will, mean more time for rookie Lawrence Sidbury at end. It could also mean a move not just for a DB. Derrick Brooks is unsigned, and he played linebacker at a fairly high level for a really long time. (Heck, Lawyer Milloy is unsigned, though I can’t imagine the Falcons taking him back.)
The Falcons aren’t necessarily looking for someone to play the next five seasons. They require someone to help them through the first couple of months of a difficult schedule. They learned Saturday night that they’re still in need of outside help. But better then than on the afternoon of Sept. 13.