2009 Preseason – Game 1 Vs. Detroit – 1st Offense Analysis

The first-team offense played the first quarter against Detroit – and played pretty well.  They scored a touchdown on their second drive after a first down and a handful of plays on the first series.

Anytime in the preseason that you can get the starters some playing time and avoid injuries is a victory.  The offense looked balanced with everyone getting some action.  Tony Gonzalez caught a pass, as well as Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and Brian Finneran. 

Michael Turner capped the 1st offense’s chances with a long touchdown run.  Turner also terrorized Detroit in week 1, 2008 with 220 rushing yards – an Atlanta franchise record.

Michael Vick’s 2009 Schedule – Coming Back To Atlanta

A few highlights from the Eagles’ 2009 schedule with Michael Vick on board –

Roger Goodell will make a decision about Michael Vick’s suspension ending by week 6.  Ironically, the Eagles play their only Monday Night game of the year in week 7 against the Redskins.  So Vick’s first game could be in the Nation’s Capitol on National TV.

In addition, week 7 starts a rough stretch for Philadelphia.  After traveling to DC, they have the Giants, Cowboys and then travel to San Diego and Chicago.

The real highlight is a Dec.6th trip to Atlanta.  That’s right, Michael Vick will meet his former team in 2009 in week 13.  The team that declared two years ago that Vick would not be a part of the Atlanta franchise when his prison term ended, will meet their former $100-million quarterback in his first year back.  I bet the NFL wishes they put that game on National TV….

Philadelphia’s Strong Organization – The Perfect Fit For Vick

The Phiadelphia Eagles have the perfect recipe for Michael Vick to succeed after rejoining the NFL.  He has Tony Dungy in his corner, but that only helped him get in the door with an NFL team after being released from prison. 

The Eagles have great ownership, a great coaching staff, strong veteran leadership and a loyal fan base.  Andy Reid is one of the most tenured coaches in the NFL and gets the most out of players.  Donovan McNabb spoke highly for Vick to join the team and that says a lot.  The fans will love any player that performs on the field and helps bring a championship to Philadelphia.  Now, if Vick fails when he trots out on a regular basis, the fans in the city of Brotherly Love will be his worst enemy – and worst nightmare.

The thing I wonder about is Vick has never performed that well in cold weather or in Phiadelphia.  Maybe it was the strong Eagles’ defense, but his agility and playmaking ability seems to be dampened with the cold temperatures and strong winds of the northeast.  Perhaps playing on the home team and having McNabb and Westbrook on his side will help.

Michael Vick Signs With Philadelphia – How Will They Use Him?

Michael Vick finally found a team – the Philadelphia Eagles.  The question is how will they use him.  Well, it depends on his football skills and shape after two years away from the game.  I personally think he’s a natural athlete that can get back in the swing pretty quickly.  Not his timing with receivers and understanding the offense – just from an athletic point of view.  It’s a two-year deal, but only the first is guaranteed.

Vick will be a possibly replacement if Donovan McNabb gets hurt.  The Eagles have a balanced team that can still make the playoffs and succeed without McNabb.  The Eagles have already talked about using Vick and McNabb on the field at the same time.  Also Vick could run some option or “Wild Eagle” formations with a guy like Jeremy Maclin with some great speed as well. 

All in all, I would say Vick could be on the field 5-10 times a game (which would be less than 20% of the time), trying to make a few big plays to spark drives.  In addition, Philadelphia gets in on the ground floor if they need a replacement for NcNabb in the next couple years and Kevin Kolb isn’t the guy for them.

Roddy White Ends Holdout, Signs Long-Term Deal

Roddy White returned to training camp today and was the 1st one in line for drills.  It was a welcome sight to Falcon fans as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL – and Matt Ryan’s favorite target from 2008 – was absent since the start of camp. 

After Harry Douglas was lost for the season, White’s signing was crucial for Atlanta.  Veterans Marty Booker and Robert Ferguson were signed, but neither are capable of being a #1 receiver.  White’s contract ends up being 6 years and $50 million, locking up the Pro Bowler until the age of 33 years old.  Considering #7 draft pick Heyward-Bey in Oakland just got a little less than that – it was a good value for Atlanta to keep such a weapon for Ryan around the next 6 years.

Harry Douglas Injured At Camp

Harry Douglas was carted off of the field at training camp on Wednesday, which is sending a shockwave through Atlanta fans’ hearts right about now.  Coach Smith has yet to comment on the injury and there has been no official report.

Rumors are swirling from a torn ACL to only some cramping from the heat.  Those are some pretty big extremes, but Falcon fans are rooting for the latter.  The injury came from a drill with Chris Owens, the rookie cornerback.  After a couple jams at the line of scrimmage, Douglas fell to the ground.  He was unable to get up after repeated attempts and eventually carted off the practice field.

Douglas is considered a key component to the Falcons’ offense this year as a slot receiver, returner and possibly more.

Wide Open Battle At Cornerback In Training Camp

The Atlanta Falcons’ training camp is only a few days old, but the cornerback battle is already in full swing.  Coach Mike Smith has spent a significant amount of time over in the secondary for drills because there are a number of guys competing for the starting spots.  Most of the other positions on the team are essentially decided headed into camp.

Chevis Jackson is the closest thing to a lock in the starting lineup.  That could change, but he showed promise in the nickel role last year and has improved since January.  He lined up as the #1 corner a bunch. 

Chris Houston has all the tools to play tough and physical on any receiver in the NFL, but he has a reputation (that’s valid) for the pass interference penalty because he just can’t get his head around when the ball is in the air.  He either makes a great play or it’s a huge, drive-altering penalty against Atlanta.

Brent Grimes is a great young corner that plays physical with good instincts.  Watch the tape of the 1st Carolina game last year, he played Steve Smith very well. 

Chris Owens is another physical guy for his size.  A rookie that will probably get worked in like Jackson last year, but if you play well enough in camp – who knows….

Roddy White Holdout

Yes, he’s holding out because it’s the last year of his rookie contract and he wants to get things stright before getting out on the field.  That’s understandable.  Many fans are making this situation out to be that White is lazy and selfish and doesn’t believe in team football.  Most football players would like to have an extension or new deal done before the season starts so they don’t have to think about it once they strap on the pads.

Roddy White already has great chemistry with Matt Ryan, if anything Tony Gonzalez needs a few extra reps this off-season with Ryan to mesh in the offense, and can miss a little time as long as he stays in shape.  The bottom line is Roddy White is a premiere receiver entering his prime in the NFL.  Those type of guys rarely hit the open market and for good reason – their team doesn’t want to let them go.  Keep a tally of how many times a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson hit the open market.  Randy Moss left Minnesota after his prime and under unique circumstances.  Jerry Rice left San Francisco after his prime.   Roddy White is entering his window to dominate secondaries.  Atlanta will sign him and the “chaos” that fans are concerned about will be a distant memory when the season begins.

Michael Vick Rumors Swirling

Where will Michael Vick land?  He’s been cleared to sign with a team, but there hasn’t been an announcement.  His agent says that a deal is close.  I believe it’s with the UFL, the new 4-team football league that will begin play in 2009.  Here’s a few of the other rumors that have been bounced around message boards and the internet the past few days.

New England Patriots

This is a new one.  Personally, I see little validity to it.  Matt Cassel is gone, but Michael Vick is no Randy Moss.  Moss had a few issues but basically a good guy in the wrong town.  Vick is a felon that would be behind Tom Brady?  Hardly.  Course, Belichek would be the type of guy to get back at Miami with a Michael Vick-led Wildcat formation in 2009.  Miami is already prepared with Pat White….get ready New England.

Minnesota Vikings

No Brett Favre?  They are without a go-to guy at quarterback.  Can you imagine a backfield with Vick and Adrian Peterson?  That’s downright scary.  Vick played well in the Metrodome as well, setting the rushing record for a quarterback in there, including a game-winning rush in overtime.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins like almost anyone, right?  Jason Campbell is already under fire and it’s still the off-season, plus is contract is coming up soon.  Dan Snyder likes some spice – Vick would be a bunch of spice in the nation’s capitol.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders take anyone that runs fast, right?  That’s what happened in the draft when they passed on Michael Crabtree, isn’t it?  They won’t live that one down for a while…. Jamarcus Russell is no lock as a franchise quarterback, plus Darren McFadden could teach Vick a little Wildcat to ease him into the offense.  Vick already knows how to run for his life behind a bad offensive line too!

The Pulse of The Fans – What To Expect On Defense/Team Goals

Jamaal Anderson Proving The Critics Wrong

Anderson is a borderline bust at this point, being a top-10 pick in 2007 and having a less-than-stellar first 2 years in the NFL.  He improved quite a bit in 2008, especially against the run and has a chance to play a lot better in 2009.  Some yelled for him to be converted to defensive tackle, but it’s still premature to want something that extreme.  With additional help on the defensive line this year (remember that Atlanta didn’t address the defense at all last off-season, the 1st in the Dimitroff/Smith Era) from Jerry and Sidbury, Anderson should improve another couple notches in 2009.

Back-to-Back Winning Seasons…Finally

Atlanta still hasn’t achieved two seasons in row over .500 – that’s a good first step to try and break before anything else in 2009.  Through all the optimism and speculation about 2009 and beyond, there’s a big difference between Atlanta and what the Colts have done with Peyton Manning at the helm this decade.  At the end of the day, I think they get it done with 10 wins.

The Super Bowl

With my prediction of 10 wins in the last fan speculation, that means I believe their tough schedule will be a real obstacle in 2009.  That doesn’t mean they cannot advance in the post-season.  The NFC has become a place that’s very competitive and a wild-card team has only a slightly less chance to get to the big dance than the #1 or #2 seed.  Philadephia scraped into the 2008 playoffs and advanced all the way to the championship game.  Arizona won 9 games and advanced to the Super Bowl.  This isn’t the 1990s where you need to win 13 games to represnet the conference in the Super Bowl.