What’s Happening Today with: Atlanta Falcons
February 17, 2011 Leave a comment
The road to redemption for the Atlanta Falcons has been a long one. This team hit rock bottom after Michael Vick’s jail sentencing and Bobby Petrino’s abrupt resignation 13 games into the 2007 NFL season. In the off-season, the team hired former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith to be their head coach. That April, Smith and team General Manager Thomas Dimitroff drafted Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan with the third overall pick to be their new face of the franchise. The sky has been the limited ever since.
Since his Ryan’s rookie season in 2008, the Falcons have posted winning records and remarkable numbers at home, losing only two home games over that period. The Falcons resurgence comes in large part to the drafting and scouting work of Smith and Dimitroff. The same off-season the team drafted Ryan, they signed former Chargers situational rusher Michael Turner to a six-year, $34.5 million contract. In his three seasons in Atlanta, Turner has been selected to two Pro Bowls and one First Team All-Pro.
The team has also seen players such as wide receiver Roddy White, defensive end/linebacker John Abraham and linebacker Curtis Lofton flourish under Smith’s tutelage. While the Falcons continue to have great success in the regular season, there are significant needs for them in order to get over the hump and ahead of NFC teams such as the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, the last two Super Bowl champions.
The Falcons have one of the sturdiest foundations in the entire NFL on offense. They already have their franchise quarterback in Ryan, a dominant every down running back in Turner, a deep threat in wide receiver Roddy White and a reliable set of hands over the middle with tight end Tony Gonzalez. However, the team would love to solidify their promising offensive line with the addition of a veteran presence, and could look for a home run hitting deep threat to partner along side White in the draft. If they don’t want to look receiver, they could also choose to look at a speed style running back to compliment Turner’s ground and pound.
Defensively, the Falcons have a strong base in the front seven department, with stars such as Abraham and Lofton to partner with youth players such as defensive end Jamaal Anderson. The team is beginning to age in some key areas though, including defensive end and cornerback. The team will definitely look to address these two critical needs in the draft or free agency, however the team sees fit.
While the Falcons look to retool in specific areas, they also must be aware of how the teams are building around them. In their own division, the NFC South, the Falcons routinely have to compete with the talented Saints, led by Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees. Also, the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the verge of being an NFC force behind talented youngsters Josh Freeman and LaGarrett Blount. Also, the NFC competition outlook includes this year’s Super Bowl champs, the Packers, a Chicago Bears team on the up-swing, and the powers of the NFC East (Eagles, Cowboys, Giants).
The Falcons, for the first time in team history, have recorded three consecutive winning seasons. With Matty Ice leading the team at quarterback, winning seasons should be occurring more often. But, this team isn’t complete as they look to take the next step forward in their development. Either way, the golden age of Atlanta Falcons football may be upon us.