And With The 24th Pick, The Atlanta Falcons Select…

Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss.  He was a projected top-10 or top-15 talent and better than what Atlanta had on their roster heading into the draft.  Most didn’t think he would still be on the board at #24, but a wacky 1st round left plenty of options for the Atlanta Falcons at their spot on day 1 of the 2009 NFL draft. 

In addition to Jerry, Safety Louis Delmas was on the board (Mayock claiming he had a 2nd round grade on Delmas), as well as Laurinaitis and Maulaluga from the linebacking position.  I am a believer that you draft the lines, so Jerry in the 1st round was a great pick.  I also like that Tony Gonzalez was traded for prior to the draft so tight end wasn’t even a consideration (Pettigrew was selected prior to #24 anyway) because he is a proven commodity and tight ends can take time to develop in the NFL (look at Vernon Davis).

Tony Gonzalez Acquired From Chiefs

The Falcons bolstered their already stacked offense with Tony Gonzalez.  In return, Atlanta gave up their 2nd round pick in 2010.  It was a great move for the following reasons:

1) They gave up a pick NEXT year not in 2009.  You never know what the future holds and Atlanta gets Gonzalez in essence for free in 2009, until they pay the price with the draft pick in 2010.

2) Gonzalez is a known talent and one of the best, if not the best, tight end in NFL history.  He’s in great shape with a few years left in the tank, and the best tight end since Alge Crumpler departed (better than him as well).

3) Atlanta wasn’t far off from one of the best offenses in the NFL by the end of 2008 and Tony Gonzalez, a full off-season from Matt Ryan, Harry Douglas and other young guys could propel them to a top-5 offense in 2009, before they pay for Tony Gonzalez.

Here’s the “bad” news about the trade if there is any…. the 2010 draft class has been talked about for about a year now as having the potential to be loaded with talent.  A 2010 2nd round pick (hopefully a late one as Atlanta makes the playoffs once again) could have the same value as a 2009 late 1st round selection in terms of talent.  But draft classes constantly change and it takes years after the fact to truly measure how a year ranks historically.

Atlanta Falcons 2009 Schedule – December

Atlanta opens December with a visit from the Eagles.  They have been a bit of a nemisis for the Falcons over the past few years.  Atlanta was ousted a few times from the playoffs since 2000 by Philadelphia.  Atlanta won the last time the teams played in Georgia, a 14-10 game that was the opening Monday Night game in 2005.

The Falcons then stay at home to host New Orleans.  The Saints have upgraded their defense in the off-season, hoping to slow down Carolina and Atlanta in the NFC South.

Atlanta then travels to New York a second time, for a match-up with the J-E-T-S.  How will the Jets new defense under Rex Ryan look?  What about Brett Favre retiring?  Will it be a snowy New York December day?

Post-Christmas (December 27th), the Falcons host the Bills in their 15th game.  Terrell Owens and the circus come to town.  Will the Bills be a playoff-bound team?  Or will they implode leading to a wrestling match on the sidelines between T.O. and Trent Edwards?

Technically in January, the Falcons close the regular season (hopefully a primer for the playoffs or just resting some guys in the 2nd half) against Tampa Bay in the Florida sun.

Atlanta Falcons 2009 Schedule – November

The Falcons have 5 games in November with their bye week securely behind them.

Atlanta travels to New Orleans for a Monday Night Football battle with the Saints.  It seems to be a yearly tradition and one of the few games to get on Monday night.  I was hoping for New England, Dallas, Carolina or New York to garner another primetime showing, but the Saints are the only game on Monday for Atlanta in 2009.

The Redskins are up next with a trip to the Georgia Dome on the short week.  Deangelo Hall will get plenty of chances to make a play (or not) against Roddy White and Michael Jenkins on November 8th, 2009.

The Falcons next travel to Carolina for their 2nd (and final) matchup with the Panthers.  With how even the teams have been in the past, it’s surprising that they will not play in the 2nd half of the 2009 season.

November 22nd, Atlanta will travel to New York to play the Giants.  Another former Falcon, Michael Boley, will be facing off against his former team.  The Giants are one of the teams to beat in the NFC on a yearly basis and will be an excellent measuring stick for Atlanta as they try for their first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history.

To close the month, Atlanta will host Tampa Bay in their 1st meeting of 2009.  Atlanta won in overtime in 2008, this time Tampa Bay will have a new coach.

Atlanta Falcons 2009 Schedule – October

Atlanta has their bye week early in 2009, the first week of October, before a difficult stretch in October.

Their first game is traveling cross country to San Francisco to play a young 49ers team.  The west coast was kind to Atlanta in 2008 with wins against San Diego and Oakland on road trips.

The following week, Atlanta gets their first primetime game of 2009 in the Georgia Dome against Chicago.  Jay Cutler’s signing and the drama that unfolded with 11 seconds in 2008 make for an interesting rematch on Sunday Night Football.

The month of October closes out with a trip to Dallas and their new retractable stadium.  In addition, former Falcon Keith Brooking will get to play his old squad.

Prediction:  Atlanta goes 2-1 in the month of October, dropping the Chicago or (most likely) the Dallas game.

Atlanta Falcons 2009 Schedule – September

A late start to the 2009 NFL season has just 3 games for Atlanta in the month of September.

The Falcons open at home against Miami.  The Dolphins were another one of the big surprises in 2008, matching Atlanta’s 11-5 mark and a playoff berth.  Certainly not one of the primetime matchups in week 1, but Atlanta fans will definitely be excited for the first football that counts in 9 months.

Week 2 keeps Atlanta at home against rival Carolina.  Atlanta put 45 points on the Panthers late in 2008 to keep the divisional title within reach.  New Orleans narrowly lost to Carolina in week 17, eliminating Atlanta from the divisional crown race.  Always a good match-up.  A little early in the season for two NFC South powers to meet in my opinion, but you do want to see where your team is at early on.

Week 3 takes Atlanta on the road to New England.  Tom Brady is expected to be back and Atlanta rarely faces the Patriots.  At least the weather will likely be better than a brutal December matchup at Foxboro.  Atlanta’s defense will get a major test on September 27th.

Rumor Central – Tony Gonzalez To Atlanta?

The rumors are swirling again about Tony Gonzalez looking for a trade and Atlanta being one of those teams.  The price tag?  The 2nd round pick from Atlanta (#55 overall) for the All-Pro tight end from Kansas City.

On the plus side, Gonzalez put up 5 times the numbers of the three Atlanta tight ends in 2008 and would upgrade a position that’s been lacking since Alge Crumpler left town.  The offense would be more potent and could be one of the best in the NFL in 2009.

On the down side, Gonzo is getting old and how many really productive years can you expect from him starting in 2009?  Maybe a couple?  Losing a 2nd round pick is a big deal.  That’s a potential starter for a number of years.  That could be our starting safety or linebacker for the forseeable future in the 2009 draft.  Rarely have I seen trading a high draft pick for an aging player workout for the team giving up the picks.  It’s kind of the Redskins’ style of fixing things – sacrificing the future for a splash of a year or two (or less!).

Latest NFL Draft News For Atlanta – Rounds 3 and 4

Mel Kiper, the draft guru since I can remember, has put out his latest mock draft 2 weeks prior to the big day.  Here’s a summary of Atlanta’s picks and my comments.

Round 3 – Antoine Caldwell, Center, Alabama.  Yes, Todd McClure is getting a little old, but he’s not planning on leaving the NFL after 2009.  Caldwell would be a potential replacement down the line, but is that worth the 3rd round pick in 2009?  Chase Coffman, who has been long rumored to be an Atlanta target, was on the board in round 3.

Round 4 – Brandon Gibson, WR, Washington State.  A curious selection as well.  Wide receiver is definitely not a weak position heading into 2009 with White, Jenkins, Finneran and Douglas all very capable.  Defensive line or linebacker would make more sense in Round 4.

Latest NFL Draft News For Atlanta – Rounds 1 and 2

Mel Kiper, the draft guru since I can remember, has put out his latest mock draft 2 weeks prior to the big day.  Here’s a summary of Atlanta’s picks and my comments.

Round 1 – Brandon Pettigrew.  Yes, he’s a talent at tight end that has the potential to complete Atlanta’s offensive balance to the point they could be a top 5 squad in 2009 and beyond.  I scratch my head a little because Pettigrew is the choice with Jerry, Jenkins, Laurinaitis, Matthews and Moore still on the board.  Falcons fans would be guessing until Atlanta’s card came to the podium if all those guys were on the board at #24.

Round 2 – Sherrod Martin, CB, Troy.  Honestly, never heard of the guy.  Atlanta has far greater needs than a relatively unknown cornerback in round 2.  It’s especially curious with Sintim drafted the next pick.  Safeties Chung and Johnson (Alabama) were on the board as well. 

Other than the Falcons….Teams to Watch on Draft Day

Detroit – A team that can only improve will get a nice shot in the arm.  Since they didn’t give up picks as part of the Jay Cutler sweepstakes, the Lions are sitting with #1, #20, #33, #65 and #82 to bolster their already young squad in the early rounds.  They’ve also been rumored to want out of the #1 pick, but who will trade a few picks for the pricey selection?

New England – They are one of the best in the league at getting tons of picks.  They were great last year without Tom Brady.  Now they get him back, oh yeah, and the #23, #34, #47 and #58 picks.  They will be stacked again in 2009.  By the way, they still have Brady, Moss, Welker and a bunch of defensive studs.