Sunday, August 9, 2009
2009 NFL PREVIEW- Atlanta Falcons
2008 RECORD: 11-5
(2nd in NFC South)
HEAD COACH: Mike Smith
Key Additions: TE Tony Gonzalez (trade/Chiefs) LB Mike Peterson (FA/Jaguars) RB Verron Haynes (FA)
Key Losses: LB Keith Brooking (FA/Cowboys) CB Domonique Foxworth (FA/Ravens) S Lawyer Milloy (FA) TE Marcus Pollard (FA) WR Laurent Robinson (trade/Rams)
Offense: The Falcons saw a resurgent offense last year after picking quarterback Matt Ryan in the first round of the NFL Draft and signing free agent running back Michael Turner.
Ryan threw for 3,440 yards in his rookie season and also had 16 touchdown passes with just 11 interceptions.
Turner had a monster breakout season after playing in LaDainian Tomlinson's shadow in San Diego his first four seasons. Turner finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2008 with 1,699 yards while averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scored 17 touchdowns. Jerious Norwood provided great depth by gaining 489 yards (5.1 ypc average) and also scored six touchdowns, including four rushing TDs.
Roddy White was the main target Ryan threw to when the team aired it out. White caught 88 passes a year ago for 1,382 yards (15.7 ypc average) and scored seven touchdowns. Michael Jenkins had 50 grabs for 777 yards and three scores.
The newest addition to the Falcons' receiving corps will only help as Tony Gonzalez brings his perennial Pro-Bowl talent to the team. Gonzalez caught 96 passes for Kansas City last year while scoring 10 tochdowns.
The offensive line will have Todd McClure at center, Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo at the tackles and guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl.
Defense: This was a problem area for the Falcons in 2008 as they allowed 348 yards per game (128 yards on the ground and 220 through the air) and only made 10 interceptions. They did register 34 quarterback sacks, with Defensive End John Abraham leading the team with 16.5 sacks.
Abraham will team with Jamaal Anderson (Right DE) and defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and top draft pick Peria Jerry.
The linebackers in Atlanta's 4-3 formation include Curtis Lofton (MLB) and outside LBs Mike Peterson and Mike Nicholas. Also available are Chauncey Davis, Tony Gilbert, Coy Wire and Rob James.
The secondary has Chris Houston and Chevis Jackson at cornerback and the safeties are Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud. William Moore (second round 2009 draft pick from Missouri) is also available at safety as is Antoine Harris.
OUTLOOK: The Falcons enjoyed success in 2008, making the playoffs and losing an exciting Wild Card Round game to Arizona.
But Head Coach Mike Smith knows his team can do better in 2009 and it's no wonder the Falcons picked up Gonzalez from the Chiefs. In addition, Atlanta is looking to improve on defense as they selected defensive players with their first five picks in the 2009 NFL draft.
If Ryan doesn't experience the sophomore "jinx" and continues to improve, the passing attack (14th in the NFL a year ago) will only get better.
Turner should continue his heroics as well and Norwood combines with the "Burner" to give Atlanta a solid 1-2 pinch in the backfield.
This team caught many by surprise last season but that won't be the case this time around as Atlanta plays in the rugged NFC South. For the Falcons to make it back to the playoffs, steady play from Ryan and company along with improved defense should pay dividends.
Look for the Falcons to compete for the division title again and at worst get a wild card spot in the playoff chase. A 10-6 record should do the trick as Atlanta seeks to move forward again in 2009.
Week 1- vs. Miami (Sept. 13)
Week 2- vs. Carolina (Sept. 20)
Week 3- at New England (Sept. 27)
Week 4- BYE WEEK
Week 5- at San Francisco (Oct. 11)
Week 6- vs. Chicago (Oct. 18)
Week 7- at Dallas (Oct. 25)
Week 8- at New Orleans (Nov. 2)
Week 9- vs. Washington (Nov. 8)
Week 10- at Carolina (Nov. 15)
Week 11- at NY Giants (Nov. 22)
Week 12- vs. Tampa Bay (Nov. 29)
Week 13- vs. Philadelphia (Dec. 6)
Week 14- vs. New Orleans (Dec. 13)
Week 15- at NY Jets (Dec. 20)
Week 16- vs. Buffalo (Dec. 27)
Week 17- at Tampa Bay (Jan. 3)