The Puzzling Trade of Laurent Robinson

It seems Laurent Robinson just arrived in Atlanta.  Well, he’s already on his way to his second NFL team – St.Louis.  I couldn’t believe it when I read the news that Robinson was out.  He’s was a promising receiver that had a couple bad injuries his rookie season, but was going to be a real player for years for the Falcons in my mind.  Well, the front office thought otherwise and sent him to the Rams.  That’s not the worst part – they didn’t even get picks for him!  Yes, Atlanta and St.Louis are merely switching picks in this year’s 5th and 6th rounds, essentially 20 picks up for Atlanta in both rounds. 

Yes, I think Dimitroff and company are going to use the draft effectively.  But you had a guy drafted #75 overall and showed lots of promise before injuries in 2008.  Yes, we had Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas and Brian Finneran still on the team.  But injuries happen and you need horses in the stable.  Just like running back and cornerback.  Look at Denver last year…. if you are short at a position and injuries happen, that can derail the season.  If you are in the situation where, god forbid, you have too many talented receivers you can always dominate with 4-receiver sets all day long and (LIVE) with that.

Here’s the positives that I will assume are true to make the trade valid in my mind.  #1 – Douglas and Jenkins are getting better all the time and ready for more prominent roles and production in 2009.  #2 – Brian Finneran is back to his old self.  #3 – Moving 20 picks up in two rounds of this year’s draft is almost a full round, so in essence it’s Atlanta’s 5th and 6th round picks for St.Louis’ 4th and 5th rounders.  #4 – Those picks will be defensive guys that could be on the field quite a bit in 2009 helping the team win.  #5 – Robinson’s hamstring and concussion injuries could be the beginning of a recurring pattern in his career.  Hamstrings are the worst lingering injury for receivers – it seems like day-to-day status turns into 2 weeks and half the season.

I will assume all those things are true which would validate the trade and make it worthwhile for Atlanta.  We will see how it plays out in 2009 and beyond.

Matt Ryan – 2009 Projections

The general consensus about Matt Ryan is surprising.  I would have thought that all the Atlanta fans would be sipping the kool-aid and proclaim Matt Ryan the MVP of the world in 2009 with statistics like Brady and Manning in their respective record-breaking seasons. 

However, most are quite subdued about their expectations.  The comparisons between Ryan and Manning are well-documented at this point and many see Ryan’s future in the same ilk.  Manning had only a little improvement statistically in his sophomore campaign and jumped in his third year.  In that same line of thinking, Ryan is being predicted to throw for between 3700 yards and 4000 with 20-24 TDs and 8-12 interceptions. 

The one thing I will say is that Atlanta is a run-first offense.  They are also a team that will get conservative with play-calling if given the opportunity (aka get up by 2 scores in the second half of games), which would shrink his overall numbers.  I would predict an increase in completion percentage and touchdowns in 2009, but not necessary in passing yards.  Ryan will take more advantage with redzone opportunities with a full off-season under his belt, but I don’t see the overall philosophy of the Falcons’ offense changing into something like the Eagles or Saints.

Michael Vick States He’s Worth Millions In The NFL

Michael Vick thinks he is still worth the contract he signed years ago with the Falcons.  Remember…the one worth more than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady at the time….yeah, that one.

Vick is close to getting out of prison and trying to restart his football career.  According to his statements with a bankruptcy judge, he plans on earning $10 million a year with football as soon as now.  That’s confidence in your abilities.

Yes, Vick was a playmaker with highlight reel stuff at the quarterback position before being convicted.  But getting on Sportscenter a few times will only earn you so much money.  Attendance does matter in the NFL and Vick put butts in the seats of the Georgia Dome, but owners are getting more selecting about their money – well, most of them.  There will always be the Jerry Joneses and Dan Snyders of the world, but most are stingy with their salaries.

Let’s look at Vick’s track record in the NFL.  He’s yet to lead a team to 9 or more wins in consecutive seasons, has a below average passer rating for his career, is hardly a leader of an offense, still can’t really throw the ball and, oh yeah, was convicted for fighting with and killing dogs.  Yes, $10 million a year sounds about right.

Will a team pay Vick to play football in 2009 and beyond?  Sure.  But it will be laden with incentives based on performance instead of the glut of guaranteed money of yesteryear.  The wildcat formation seems like a good idea for Vick.  Using him 10-15 snaps a game sounds like a plan.  Getting Vick as your #1 QB to lead you to the playoffs is NOT a good idea….unless you have nowhere to go but up like the cities of Oakland, Detroit and maybe Chicago.

How To Get Through The Long NFL Off-Season

Try a new hobby – how about fencing?

Watch all your recorded Falcons games in order from 2008, wearing your jerseys only when that side of the ball is on the field.

Scramble the word Falcons, Atlanta, Matt Ryan or Michael Turner into as many different words as possible.

Simulate the 2009 NFL Draft on Madden – creating all the possible draft picks before going through with it.

Actually go outside on a random Sunday.

Figure out the Falcons salary cap situation down to the penny.

Go to the gym – if they have 1990s Atlanta games on NFL replay.

Play a make-believe football game in your yard where you play all the positions.

Possible Destinations for Michael Vick

The UFL has been the top rumor lately – a league that will welcome trouble-makers that could bring some excitement on the field.  Vick was definitely a highlight reel between the white lines until his conviction.

The Raiders.  Oakland is always the hot destination for troubled stars like Randy Moss a few years ago among others.  JaMarcus Russell hasn’t shown staying power since being drafted #1.  Al Davis is always looking to sign a big name despite the chemistry consequences.

Detroit.  Another place where questionable personnel decisions are common.  They don’t have an answer at quarterback and aren’t locked into drafting Stafford at #1 in April.  Even with a top draft pick and Culpepper in the mix, they might bring Vick in as a flyer that could pay off.

Chicago.  It seems like 1985 since the Bears had a go-to quarterback.  They could benefit from bringing in Vick as a 3rd option and working him in with some Wildcat formations.

Michael Vick’s Future Is Nearly The Present

It seems like yesterday that Michael Vick was convicted and sent to jail.  Well, this offseason Vick could potentially be back on a football field.  Mr.Blank has stated numerous times that Vick will not suit up for the Falcons again.  But what is his future? 

Rumors have Vick playing in the new UFL that could be like a minor league system for the NFL starting soon. 

Atlanta is also trying to trade Vick.  That could be tough with his contract situation – but there are plenty of teams with unstable QB situations that could show interest.  Obviously, Atlanta would like to get something in return, but cap relief in the coming years might be the best they can hope for at this point.

Longer NFL Season Coming Soon?

Roger Goodell is proposing a new NFL schedule in the coming years…less preseason and more regular season games.  What’s not to like from a fan perspective?  Diehards look forward to the preseason with passion because we haven’t seen our teams in uniform for months and even if most of the game is filled with guys you will rarely see on Sundays, it gets our juices going nonetheless.

Statistics will be skewed because of the additional one or two games that go towards the record books and players will naturally want more money for putting the their bodies on the line for extra regular season work.  The owners will want to pocket that extra money from filling the stadium and TV contracts, which is where the disagreement that could delay this change from taking place.

Everyone wants more money – and why not?  We are talking about a sport where most players are in the league for less than 5 years (so no big payout for a majority) and owners got rich by being stingy in the first place and hey, it’s their team, right? 

Regardless, the idea of the NFL season starting a week or two earlier is music to most fans’ ears and hopefully, that wish comes true in the next couple years.

Louis Delmas Scores Low on Wonderlic

Many pundits have Western Michigan Safety Louis Delmas on the Atlanta Falcons’ short list of possible draft picks at the #24 spot in the 1st round of next month’s NFL draft.  Well, the scores are back from the famed Wonderlic test given at the NFL combine.  Delmas scored a 12.

While a score doesn’t directly relate to success or failure on the NFL field, there are general trends to a player’s performance on the test.  Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Ivy leaguer) has the highest score to day and has had limited success in the NFL to date.  You can make an argument about Vince Young’s famous score of 6 meant something as he has failed to adapt to the NFL and the offensive complexity of his position after his rookie campaign.  The consensus is that decision-making positions, mainly quarterback, middle linebacker, safety, you want generally higher scores – or at least above a certain threshold.  That threshold is usually around 17-18. 

Now, a player with a low score won’t necessarily drop in the draft, it will just make you look at the tapes more to see their football awareness on the field.  Delmas is considered a top-notch athlete with all the physical tools to become a great safety.  Does a low Wonderlic have any impact on his draft status?  Probably not.  Safety is thin at the top of the draft in 2009 and some teams won’t wait until the bigger class (at least projected) of 2010 comes around next April.

Falcons’ March Madness

As Atlanta fans mire through this long off-season before the 2009 season heats up, we search for things to take our sports attention.  March Madness is a prime example.  It’s about a month prior to the NFL draft, but it’s something that we can focus on for a few weeks with bracketology and the like.

The first night of games saw Memphis, Villanova and UCLA receive scares, while North Carolina and UCONN coasted to a victory by seemingly 100 points. 

The week prior it was a little sad to see the ACC tournament in Atlanta as the Georgia Dome had been converted from the haven of Falcons football to a basketball venue that didn’t quite work.  There were a ton of empty seats (is basketball really an 80,000 in attendance type event?) and the sound doesn’t really convey in a stadium of that size.

Regardless, March Madness is upon us and we rejoice.  The office pools are in full swing where for a short amount of time we can scrutinize statistics of teams we haven’t seen play since last March, pretend we know about American’s ability to be the press and plainly try to outguess our friends, family and co-workers.  It’s a great time to sit back, yell at the TV and enjoy the NFL off-season.

2009 Falcons Season Expectations

Mel Kiper was just on the radio, talking about the turnarounds of teams like Atlanta, Baltimore and Miami in 2008.  He talked about the huge expectations of these teams’ fans heading into 2009, where playoffs are a given and possibly a Super Bowl appearance.  Atlanta fans aren’t that over the top.  There’s a little more “Philly fan” in them from what I see on message boards this off-season.  People recognize that the offense was overhauled (in a good way) last year and Matt Ryan looks like a franchise quarterback.  Here’s the things that need to get worked out in 2009 for the season to be a success…..

Avoid the big injuries…..Every NFL team is on board with this one.  Most teams can’t circle the wagons like New England last year when Brady went down and still reel off 11 wins.  A prolonged injury to a key player could derail most NFL teams for the season.

As of March 15th, 2009 the defense is worse than 2008…..with all the losses and only a Mike Peterson signing, the fragile defense in 2008 is still a shell.  There are tons of questions about draft picks coming in, injury status of guys like Robert James from 2008 and development status of guys like Coy Wire and Kroy Biermann on the defensive side of the ball.

Schedule….Atlanta has a much more difficult slate in 2009.  There are two ways to look at it – well, the division mostly plays the same teams, so everyone in the South will get their share -OR- a difficult regular, while it could produce fewer wins, will get a team tough and ready for the playoffs more than a lollipop regime.

Overall, I see Atlanta fans with true optimism (for the first time in a while) heading into the 2009 NFL season, where we are on the right track to have some consistent success.  Remember this franchise still hasn’t recorded two consecutive winning seasons in its history (even years are good years, odds not so much lately).  Having a top quarterback makes the season a little easier, but ask John Elway about the importance of a supporting cast.  The good news is the Falcons have a lot of things moving in the right direction – young team, good head coach and personnel department, no albatross veteran contracts, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Michael Turner are all near the top of their respective positions.

2009 promises to be exciting for the Atlanta Falcons and their fans, but the consensus is not like that in Baltimore where the kool-aid bowl at the party is by a big poster than says “Super Bowl or Bust.”