So I’ve posted a lot of spiritual things on here but it’s time to speak my mind on something else that’s been on my mind lately-and that’s why the Falcons have had such a bad 2013 season. A study I was listening to on 680 the Fan a year or so ago stated an interesting fact, and to sum it up, it basically said the past 10 years or so, 5 NFL teams who made the playoffs in one year would miss out on the playoffs the next year. This year, those teams will include the Falcons, Texans, Redskins, Vikings, and between the Packers and 49ers, one team will miss out on the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. So there’s 5. The NFL is just a crazy league altogether, with teams being able to go from poor to great (and vice versa) in a couple years.
The Falcons have, during the Mike Smith-Thomas Dimitroff-Matt Ryan era, relied first and foremost on the running game. When Thomas Dimitroff signed relative unknown Michael Turner from San Diego in the summer of 2008, nobody knew quite the splash it would eventually make as, behind his tree trunk thighs and power running, he would rumble for nearly 1,700 yards and 17 TD’s. We had a mean, nasty offensive line, lead by Harvey Dahl and Todd McClure. Although Turner’s career in Atlanta ended on a rather sour note, his career will be remembered in a positive manner in my mind. Many thought the signing of Steven Jackson would bring back the similar smash mouth running style of Turner back in the day to the Falcons, only to see S Jax be slowed by a nagging toe injury. Not only this, but the mean, “punch you in the mouth” offensive line back in the day doesn’t exist anymore. Harvey Dahl? Gone. Todd McClure? Retired. Tyson Clabo? Released, so we could give Matt Ryan a huge payday. Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes have struggled heavily on the line. The offensive line can’t open the holes nor protect Ryan enough to give him time to look downfield and make plays in the passing game. And his receivers? Julio was having a sensational season till a leg injury put him out for the year, and Roddy has been hobbled by injuries much of the year. The bottom line is our offense isn’t good enough to put up the near-elite numbers like we did last year, and our defense, as I’ll talk about, isn’t good enough to help out the offense.
The defense has always been a “bend but don’t break” type under Coach Smith. Although we didn’t give up a lot of points on defense last year (Top 5 in Scoring D), we gave up a lot of yards, but it was fine, because the offense could bail the D out. Not this year. Thomas Dimitroff cutting John Abraham (7 sacks and 3 FF’s) has clearly turned out to be the wrong move. Not that Osi Umenyiora has had a bad year, with 6.5 sacks and 2 fumbles forced, but having both these pass rushers on either side of the defensive line would have proved to be a dynamic duo. Everyone knew when we took 2 cornerbacks in the first 2 rounds of the Draft the secondary would see some growing pains, and, despite showing some promise, it has. But poor tackling has nagged this team again and Thomas DeCoud, one of the veteran leaders on the defense, doesn’t know how to take an angle on a wide receiver going downfield. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve see him being burnt because he’s taken a horrible path to the ball and we get beat on a deep pass. Sean Weatherspoon, without question the best player on the defense at LB, has been injured (surprised?) much of the year. Undrafted Free Agents Paul Worrilow (at least 16 tackles the past 3 games) and Joplo Bartu have shown promise from the linebacker position, but obviously there are going to be some growing pains. What am I getting at? The defense, supposed to be a squad that forces turnovers and makes stops, hasn’t been getting sacks, forcing turnovers, or forced fumbles. We’re worse than 20th in the league in sacks, interceptions, and forced fumbles, and in fact we’re tied for last with the Browns in forced fumbles. The defense has been terrible and can’t help the offense at all.
All of this culminating, can this be a quick fix for the Falcons? Bound for a Top 5 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and with such defensive prospects as Jadeveon Clowney and CJ Mosley, I think it can be a quick fix. Next year we will (probably) have Julio, Roddy, and Weatherspoon back and healthy. Yes, Tony Gonzalez will be gone, and he is irreplaceable, but with the emergence of Julio this year, I think we can do. The Falcons need to draft either (1) a player on the line or (2) a defensive player, preferrably a LB, someone like Shayne Skov out of Stanford (or, obviously, a defensive lineman, which I would love). Will we be back next year? I think without question we can be a playoff team again. What about an elite team? Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure though: no matter who’s calling the shots from the Front Office, who’s running the defense, or who’s taking snaps under center, I’ll be watching. Go Falcons.