Reasons The Falcons Won’t Fail In 2009

#1 – The staff.  Mike Smith and the whole staff is basically intact from 2008…that’s a rarity for this franchise over the recent history.

#2 – They had a 2nd consecutive great draft.  Jeria will make an instant impact on the defensive line and probably 3 guys from the rest of the pool will make a Harry Douglas-type impact by the end of the season.

#3 – They have tons of playmakers on offense.  They didn’t need Tony Gonzalez, but he makes covering Turner, White, Norwood, Jenkins and Douglas THAT much more difficult.

#4 – Matt Ryan is really good.  You are always in good shape with a top quarterback.  Peyton Manning has guided Indy to 12 wins so many times it’s hard to count.  Tom Brady is a winner when he is healthy.  The great ones lift up the team.

#5 – Curtis Lofton will be the leader of a defense that has youth and talent on its side.  Outside of John Abraham and Mike Peterson, the defense is really young, but a good young.  The type that can gel and have the same core players for years.

Chris Owens – A Potential 2009 Draft Steal

CBS sports recently included Chris Owens as a potential steal of the 2009 NFL draft.  Most Atlanta Falcons’ fans were thrown by the team’s 3rd round selection with a confused “huh? who?” being muttered after the announcement.

After doing some research and just trusting the NFL draft guru Thomas Dimitroff, Owens keeps looking better and better as the 90th pick overall in April.  Owens comes from the “outside the center of the college football mecca” conference of the WAC, but San Jose State is hardly new to producing NFL-caliber players in the secondary.  Two other former San Jose State standouts have played for the Jets and Browns in the last few years – making you wonder if something is in the water.

While Owens is only 5’9″, 180 lbs., he’s very strong and physical for his size.  All that physicality will be needed when you play in a league of wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnsons.

Harry Douglas Beefs Up For 2nd Season

Harry Douglas was one of the bright spots for Atlanta in 2008, being a 3rd receiver and punt returner.  He made more big plays as the season went along and will be a huge contributor in 2009.

We all know that the Falcons’ offense is stacked with Ryan, Gonzalez, Norwood, Turner, Jenkins and White, but Douglas may be one of the most important pieces.  I tend to relate Atlanta to Indianapolis because Ryan reminds me of a young Peyton Manning so much – course Atlanta’s running game is far better at this point.  But how important is the slot receiver in the Colts’ offense?  It’s was Stokley then Gonzalez and Dallas Clark at times shredding the interior of a defense.  With safeties staying back more in 2009 because of Roddy White or Jenkins running deep, Gonzalez and Douglas will have a ton of one-on-one matchups over the middle.

Douglas has added 10 pounds of muscle to his 5’11” frame in the off-season for the additional work.  He was a quick guy in 2008 that got plenty of separation – now he will be able to use his body more against safeties, 3rd corners and outside linebackers.

Harry Douglas is a big-time sleeper on Atlanta’s offense in 2009 and could be the key to the Falcons becoming a top-5 offensive team.

Atlanta Falcons Getting Fantasy Football Love in 2009

After a season (2008) where no fantasy owner wanted a piece of Atlanta players – some leagues only selecting Michael Turner in the 5th round or later, the fantasy football community has warmed up to the idea that Atlanta is primed to be one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.

Atlanta’s off-season was primarily spent on defense, and for good reason, but the biggest change to the offense is that all the pieces are still in town.  There has been such turnover in the organization for years that 2009 finally marks some solidity.  Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, the offensive line and the coordinator are all back for another season together.  Add to the mix Tony Gonzalez, the all-world tight end, and there’s plenty of substance to the sizzle.

Matt Ryan entered 2008 as a rookie who threw too many interceptions his senior year at Boston College and was being thrown to the wolves in Atlanta.  2009 has Ryan coming off a playoff berth, one of the best seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had, and looking like our “once-in-a-generation” signal caller.

Michael Turner looked like a guy who just chased the money in 2008 because there was no way he was going to succeed in Atlanta.  After a 1699-yard season and over a touchdown a game, Turner is mentioned as a top-5 fantasy running back.  That’s even with Jerious Norwood getting 100+ carries…

Roddy White was seen as a decent talent at wide receiver, but turned into Ryan’s favorite target in 2008.  Now, he’s mentioned in the same breath as Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald in the fantasy world.

Add to that Tony Gonzalez and the offense in Atlanta has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL and in fantasy football in 2009.

Michael Vick Is Officially Released

The writing had been on the wall for quite a while – heck, all the brass in the Falcons’ organization had been saying Michael Vick would be released, but the day actually arrived where he is a former Atlanta Falcon. 

Michael Vick still has a month of house arrest before he could even be elgible to be reinstated to the NFL, but now he’s officially a free agent.  The move came with a cost – a $7 million salary hit in 2009 – but Atlanta was ready for it with plenty of room under the cap.  The release saved Atlanta a ton of money though with Vick’s bulging contract, signed years before his dog-fighting conviction, as he was on the book for well more than $10 million a season.

The early reports are more pessimistic than a few months ago about Vick’s possible suitors.  The “smart money” in a few articles were that Vick could get back into form in the newly-formed UFL in 2009 and make his way back in the NFL in 2010.  Training camp is just around the corner and it would take a lot for even the naturally athletic Vick to be back in prime shape for the NFL season.  While that perspective makes a lot of sense, I would definitely not rule out a team, like Oakland, Dallas or Washington that has a tendency to want to make a splash even if it’s more speculative than anything, to make a move for Vick’s services in 2009.

Positive Aspects of Atlanta Falcons’ 2009 Schedule

Not only do the Atlanta Falcons get to start out with two home games in 2009, they get to play New England on the road when the weather is nice…in September.  You can’t believe the difference between playing early in the season as opposed to in New England, in the months of November and December, in the cold, against a team poised for a deep postseason run.

Atlanta travels to the west coast (San Francisco), but after a bye week, so they will be plenty rested with all the miles through time zones.

When the Falcons play their first set of back to back road games, they get an additional day off, playing Dallas on Sunday and in New Orleans the following Monday night.

Potentially the Falcons could only have a couple cold weather games in 2009 – a November 22nd matchup against the Giants and a December 20th game against the Jets.  Yes, Matt Ryan played 4 years at Boston College through the winter months, but offensive teams would rather play in domes and warm weather sites as a rule – like Atlanta does for 12+ games a year.

Falcons Predicted To Reach NFC Championship Game

Analyst Todd McShay has submitted his predictions for the 2009 NFL season and the Falcons received some love after their surprising 2008 campaign.  McShay predicted the Falcons would play the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game.  Unfortunately, he has the Eagles winning and moving on to play the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

While Atlanta’s schedule is more diffficult in 2009, I believe it will make them more battle-tested heading into the NFL’s “second season”.  While the Saints or Panthers may win the division, Atlanta will be more ready for the playoffs and the tougher teams in the field. 

When I first read the article it reminded me of 2004 when Atlanta lost to Philadelphia, then New England won the Super Bowl.  Course, Matt Ryan would fair better in the cold weather of January at Lincoln Financial Field than a certain Michael Vick.  Michael Turner is also more of a pound-it-out downhill running back than Warrick Dunn.

Atlanta opens the 2009 season with home games against Miami and Carolina.

Harvey Dahl – NFL’s Meanest Player

The votes are in and Harvey Dahl, Guard of the Atlanta Falcons, is the meanest in the NFL.  Yes, that means we are deep in the heart of the off-season for writers to ask around about things like this, but Dahl has won the honors. 

He has worked his way up in the NFL through trades and practice squads to be a starter on a championship contender.  Dahl was fortunate that Atlanta was turning over a high percentage of the roster and Dahl was able to not only start, but stay healthy for the Falcons in 2008.  Now, the offensive line unit is intact heading into their second season.

Dahl is well-known for playing up to the whistle (and sometimes past), driving his man yards into the defensive secondary to gain the mental edge.  He’s a beast in the run game, but still has some finer points to work on in pass protection.  Dahl is a hidden gem that Atlanta found from San Francisco that helped Michael Turner get to the Pro Bowl and rush for nearly 1700 yards.

In addition to Dahl, Atlanta signed Tyson Clabo to stay in 2009 and hopefully lead the Falcons and Matt Ryan to another successful season.

Atlanta’s Young Defense Is Set-Up For Long-Term Success

The best thing about the Atlanta Falcons’ veteran purge on defense the past couple years is that they are turning back the clock and turning up the talent.  Despite the name value of guys like Keith Brooking, Grady Jackson and Lawyer Milloy, they were past their prime and not in the team’s plans down the road. 

In 2008, the team gave playing time to young guys like Curtis Lofton, Chevis Jackson, Kroy Biermann, Brent Grimes and Chris Houston.  They gained valuable experience and the team managed to go 11-5 and made the playoffs, despite ranking the bottom third of the NFL statistically.

In 2009, all the above players are part of the Falcons’ plans for defensive success.  In addition, the 2009 draft class was filled with defensive talent that could have the impact of the 2008 class.  William Moore is a big-play safety that could be starting week 1, along with defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who dropped to Atlanta with the #24 pick.  Chris Owens is a potential sleeper at cornerback, while Spencer Adkins and Lawrence Sidbury could be edge rushers and special teams’ stars.

In addition to all the 1st and 2nd year players on the defensive side of the ball, Stephen Nicholas, Trey Lewis and Thomas DeCloud are still developing and also bolster the roster.

All this youth alongside John Abraham, Mike Peterson and Erik Coleman could drastically improve a defense that only needs to be above-average for the Falcons to flourish.  Matt Ryan and the offense don’t need a lot of help, but every game in 2008 was close leading to a lot of vital possessions in the 4th quarter.

Pat Yasinskas Weighs In On The Important Falcons’ Questions

An ESPN correspondent for the NFC South, Pat Yasinskas gets to answer fans’ questions today.  Here’s a few highlights and my thoughts.

In general, Yasinskas was very positive about the Falcons and the upcoming campaign.  In addition to mentioning that Matt Ryan would be the quarterback he would want on the field with 2 minutes to go and the game on the line, Atlanta was rated as his most balanced offense in the division heading into the 2009 season. 

Like many Falcons’ fans, he says that 2009 is a make-it-or-break-it year for Jamaal Anderson.  He’s underachieved since being a top-10 pick at defensive end, but did show some improvement in 2008.  Without a good camp, veteran Chauncey Davis could start ahead of Anderson and that would be the beginning of the end for Anderson in Atlanta.

Yasinskas rates Ovie Mughelli as a top-5 fullback in the NFL (course, how many true fullbacks remain in the age of spread offenses?) and a vital part of their offense.  Another important aspect is Tony Gonzalez.  Yes, he’s the best receiving tight end in NFL history, but his blocking will be an upgrade over Alge Crumpler a couple years ago and the tight-end-by-committee situation in 2008.