Inside Look At Falcons’ Off-Season

Brian Baldinger went inside the Falcons’ training facility for some off-season conditioning in 2009.  After watching it, there are a few things that stood out in my mind:

The process of preventing injuries and lessening the severity of those injuries is far improved from even 5 years ago.  Every position is working on their core, flexibility and stabilization so that the muscles and joints can flex and absorb impact in game situations.

Mike Peterson is a great veteran addition.  He was leading by example in the weight room and showing the young guys “hey, if you want to be effective 10 years from now, you need to take care of yourself like this.”

Nutrition is stressed in Atlanta with good food served to the players at the training facility.

It showed a meeting for the rookies with the 2008 draft class answering questions and sharing their experiences from their rookie campaigns.  Funny to see Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, etc. as only a year removed from being drafted….seems like they’ve been in Atlanta forever.  Thanks for the great drafting thus far, Mr.Dimitroff.

Where Will Michael Vick Land? – NFC Breakdown

A team-by-team breakdown of the chances of Michael Vick being a part of their respective rosters:

Philadelphia – The fans would eat Vick alive….literally.  Next….

Giants – Manning is the franchise guy, Coughlin is not the right coach for Vick’s return.

Dallas – Would Jones roll the dice?  Romo has the potential, but hasn’t put it together yet.  After getting rid of T.O. (best personnel move in a while for them), why would you add Vick?

Washington – Definitely a possibility.  Campbell is not a fixture by any means and the team lacks an identity.  Yes, they run the ball, but their passing game needs help.  Any receiver would love 7 seconds to get open, course Vick might not even look for you in that time, but still….

Detroit – Stafford will at least get a couple years to show his stuff.  How long did Harrington get?  Exactly…

Minnesota – They don’t love Jackson because they brought in Rosenfels.  Vick destroyed the Vikings during his Atlanta time, they play in a dome, Vick’s done well against Green Bay, sounds like a good fit.

Green Bay – Not a chance – too cold and Rodgers is a guy they are committed to, at least for now.

Atlanta – No way.

Carolina – John Fox doesn’t put up with a bunch of crap and going to a bitter rival seems impossible.

Tampa Bay – New coach and new everything in 2009 – why not have Vick as an option?  Plus, they play warm games at home and at least 2 dome games a year on the road.

New Orleans – Brees is the guy and New Orleans passes WAY too much for Vick to succeed in the offense.

Arizona – Warner is getting old, but I can’t see a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance going for Vick – call me crazy. 

San Francisco – Definitely a possibility.  The only downfall is that Singletary sees Vernon Davis as a cancer – what’s his point of view on Michael Vick?  They do lack play-making on offense, you can’t just run Frank Gore into a 9-man front on 1st and 2nd down, right?

Seattle – Hasselbeck is coming back 100%, right?  Seneca Wallace is a really poor man’s Vick, so they have that avenue covered in the short-term.

St.Louis – definitely a possibility.  They are a dome team, Bulger is unpredictable at best and their offensive line needs a mobile quarterback so they stop getting them injured.  Steven Jackson, turf and an NFC West schedule would be a nice way to ease back into the swing of things for Michael Vick.

Where Will Michael Vick Land? – AFC Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown of AFC teams, their quarterback situation and Vick’s chances of landing there:

New England – Belichek is definitely not the desperate type.  Brady is coming back healthy and a-la-Matt Cassell, Kevin O’Connell is an unknown back-up that could plan well in the system if something happens.  Not a chance there.

Buffalo – You have to think about.  Trent Edwards is definitely a bottom-half tier NFL QB and Terrell Owens will create some excitement in 2009.  How can you not bring in a guy like Vick that could help right away with some formations.  Course, Vick has basically sucked in his career in the cold….

Miami – Until the selection of Pat White, this would have been a great spot.  White is basically Vick with a spotless image and record – and for a 2nd round pick. 

Jets – Mark Sanchez is the town hero after draft day, but rookie quarterbacks are a fickle bunch.  Clemens and Erik Ainge are other young options.  After a blue-collar construction job, maybe Vick is tough enough for New York?  Okay, maybe not.  They get snow there as well.

Ravens – Not a chance, they love their Joe Flacco.  Plus, Troy Smith could run all the Vick stuff if they wanted to go that route.

Cincinnati – Well, Vick would fit right in to their off-the-field history, right?  A healthy Palmer makes this a moot point, but they are an injury away from being, well, where they were last year.  Vick gives a team like the Bengals a chance to be 8-8 or 7-9 instead of 4-12 without Palmer in the picture.

Cleveland – They have a big enough mess with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn on the roster – sort that out and they might be interested by mid-season.

Pittsburgh – Not a chance.

Colts – Not a chance.

Tennessee – A slight chance.  Collins is older than some coaches and Vince Young has a Chuck Knoblauch-type hex going on upstairs.  Vick could be a stop-gap in 2010.  Their backfield would be similar to the Dunn, Duckett, Vick situation in Atlanta a few years ago with Lendale White and Chris Johnson.

Jacksonville – Jack Del Rio is definitely not the coach for Michael Vick.

Houston – How funny would it be for Vick to be Schaub’s back-up in 2009?  If Schaub would have stayed in Atlanta, where would Matt Ryan be right now?  Ah, the great “what if” game….

Denver – Who’s their quarterback again?  Oh, not Cutler?  Yeah, they would be interested in Vick.

Chiefs – They might be getting fleeced on the Cassel deal, why would they being in Vick too?  Cassel’s making more than Vick’s old contract in 2009! 

San Diego – No chance.

Oakland – Al Davis will definitely be interested…look at Vick’s 40-time!  Course it was prision-aided that day…. Russell has shown little so far and it would have to be the first time ever that two #1 quarterbacks were on the same roster in history.

Michael Vick’s Future In The NFL

The big question as Michael Vick reenters society is what his NFL future holds in 2009 and beyond.  While some what Vick crucified forever, most believe and think he will get another chance in the NFL.  It won’t be for $10 million a season like his last contract, but he will have an opportunity to prove himself, play on Sundays and be a starting quarterback on a roster.  Because of the timing of his federal punishments (2 months from today is the absolute earliest he will get to meet with Roger Goodell about his future), the beginning of the 2009 season may be in question for Vick’s football progress.

We don’t know what type of football shape Vick is in right now (probably not very good, but his bench press has probably gotten better…couldn’t resist that one) or what he can do in the 2 months of probation (probably not much), so it may be August before he can get reacquainted with the game and its conditioning. 

The fact of the matter is that at least 20 teams in the NFL have quarterback situations that could throw Vick into the mix for a starting position at some point in 2009.  Injuries and bad play are major contributors.  Vick could run some wildcat formation stuff to at least get on the field and can otherwise make plays with his legs on a team with a below-average offensive line.

Michael Vick Released From Prison Today

It seems like just yesterday that Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for dog-fighting, but his early release date has arrived and he is in transport from Kansas to Hampton, Virginia as I write this.  So….what next?

Well, Vick has 2 months of house arrest where he will work for a local construction company for $10/hour and the little free time he will have will be devoted to church, medical appointments or other requirements.  After all that is over, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he will then evaluate Vick and his possible return to the NFL.

I am sure some residents of Hampton, Virginia have their skin crawling from the thought of a person like Vick in their area, but others feel he has paid the price set by the judicial system and deserves another chance in his chosen profession.  Yes, his profession is more public than most but a blue-collar worker would have a much smoother transition than a former Pro Bowl NFL signal caller.

Pat Kirwan’s 2009 NFL Power Rankings – My Take

Starting at the top, it’s not surprising that the Steelers and Patriots are atop the VERY EARLY rankings for the 2009 NFL season.  Both are so darn solid that injuries seem to just bounce on them as they make deep runs on an annual basis.  With Brady back, New England could be right there for the best record in football.

The Falcons sit at #7 on the list, 3rd highest in the NFC behind Philadelphia (#3) and the Giants (#4).  I can’t disagree with the Eagles and Giants at all because they have been there and done that.  Both are loaded, well-coached and are December and January tough and tested.  Atlanta definitely falls in the next group of Arizona, Minnesota, New Orleans, Chicago, Carolina and Green Bay, where any of those could be 11-12 win teams or .500 or below depending on how they respective schedules pan out.  Minnesota and Philadelphia are intriguing teams in the NFC with Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin in the mix and the possibility of Brett Favre in 2009.

Miami at #17 seems a little low – call me crazy but 2008 definitely wasn’t a fluke.  Parcells is getting things together and Pat White was the perfect pick for all the wildcat permutations.  Buffalo was given no love with the addition of Terrell Owens, still mired at #24 and picked to finish last in the AFC East.

The 49ers are #28, but imagine the difference if Kurt Warner would have signed there.  I would have put them in the top-20 with that defense and Gore, adding Warner.

Despite adding Matt Cassel, Kansas City is #31 on the list.  Talk about being labeled a Bill Belichek product of New England….

William Moore Already Succeeding In Atlanta

Even though it has been just a mini-camp with William Moore in an Atlanta uniform, he is already making his presence known in the NFL.  The early reports are in and they are raving reviews.

William Moore lasted in the draft until Atlanta picked at the end of the 2nd round – about a round too late according to most experts – and could easily be the best safety in the 2009 NFL Draft Class. 

Moore is bigger and faster than the 2008 starter in Atlanta, Lawyer Milloy, and made a couple big plays in drills – including an interception.  Some have compared Moore to a young Brian Dawkins.  That’s high praise for a rookie that hasn’t played yet, but an exciting skill set for a team that hasn’t had an impact safety since Scott Case.

To top off the mini-camp, Moore stayed longer than everyone else signing autographs and visiting with devoted fans that took in the drills. 

Sounds like William Moore is off to a great start in Hot-lanta.

A Look Ahead – Atlanta’s 2009 Quarterbacks and Running Backs

Starters: Michael Turner, Ovie Mughelli, Matt Ryan.

All Matt Ryan did in 2008 was start from day one, lead Atlanta to 11 wins and win the Rookie of the Year award.  The sky is the limit with all the weapons on the offensive side of the ball in 2009 and beyond.  Michael Turner silenced all the critics who questioned if he could be a full-time ball carrier with almost 1700 yards.  Ovie Mughelli is a great lead blocker and effective on the dive plays on short yardage.

Reserves: Jerious Norwood, Thomas Brown, Chris Redman, D.J. Shockley, John Parker Wilson, Jason Snelling, Verron Haynes.

Norwood is one of the most explosive runners in the game and is greatly improved in the passing game heading into 2009.  Snelling is underrated as a one-cut back that can move the pile.  Brown (injured as a rookie) and Haynes (free agent from Pittsburgh) are new to Atlanta.  Chris Redman is a good back-up with experience starting games at a time.  D.J. Shockley is a hometown guy that is still a work in progress.  Parker Wilson could be a practice squad guy that will see less time on screen in 2009 than on MTV during his Hoover High School days…

A Look Ahead – Atlanta’s 2009 Wide Receivers

Starters: Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Tony Gonzalez.

The Falcons’ passing game was in full swing by the end of 2008 with Matt Ryan improving by the possession.  Roddy White turning from a very good receiver in 2007 to one of the best in the NFL heading into 2009.  He has speed, great ability to play the ball in the air, and his hands are vastly better than his first couple seasons.  Michael Jenkins had his best season yet in 2008.  Both are great blockers in the running game in addition to big targets for Ryan.  Trading for Tony Gonzalez was the missing piece and pure gravy for Atlanta in 2009.  They traded a 2nd round pick in 2010 for the future Hall of Famer, so this coming season is basically free.  Gonzalez gives Ryan a great target over the middle that will open up everyone from Roddy White to Michael Turner.  Gonzalez gives Atlanta one of the best offenses in football heading into 2009.

Reserves: Harry Douglas, Brian Finneran, Ben Hartsock, Justin Peele, Eric Weems.

Hartsock and Peele give Atlanta flexibility with their two-tight-end formations as both got significant playing time in 2008.  Harry Douglas is a great slot receiver as well as dynamic in the punt return game.  Brian Finneran found his role in 2008 as a possession guy that can make the tough 3rd down catches.

A Look Ahead – 2009 Atlanta Offensive Line

Starters: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl. 

The starting squad that performed so well in 2008 will enter 2009 together again.  Ask anyone in football the most important thing for an offensive line – they will tell you continuity.  These guys played together in 2008 and will have the benefit of continuing their progress in the off-season.  Baker and Blalock are young talents that could be studs sooner rather than later.  Clabo and Dahl are maulers that showed dramatic improvement in 2008.  They entered the year as rather unknown and ended their campaigns having earned starting spots on the team for the following season.  McClure is the savvy veteran that has a few years left, and tons of ability to continue to make Matt Ryan’s life easier identifying and blocking the opposition’s blitz packages.

Reserves: Quinn Ojinnaka, Garrett Reynolds, Brett Romberg.  The Falcons got deeper on the offensive this offseason, but still lack proven reserves.  Ojinnaka has some playing time under his belt (during the Vick era), while Reynolds (rookie) and Romberg are new to Atlanta for 2009.  Offensive line injuries hurt any team in the NFL, but Atlanta’s fortunes in 2009 could hinge on their health.