Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Five Thoughts on the Falcons

7-4! Meaningful games in December! WTF!?!

1. Mike Smith, thank you for giving Professor Romer a tingly feeling by going for fourth and goal to ice the game. Thank you for putting the game in the hands of Michael Turner and the left side of the offensive line as opposed to your suspect defense. Thank you for making the decision favored by both balls and brains. After Turner's clinching touchdown, I had a good time imagining Smith reciting Tony Montana's "all I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break 'em for no one" speech.

2. One aspect of the game against Carolina that annoyed me: letting the Panthers throw the ball to Steve Smith at will. It's no secret that Smith is easily the most dangerous weapon on that Carolina offense. Smith reminds us all of this fact by gesticulating wildly and pointing to the roof of the Georgia Dome every time he makes a catch. So why is it that the Falcons didn't devote extra attention to him. I understand that the Falcons play a lot of zone and it's not as if they can double-cover a guy in zone. That said, there has to be a way to modify a cover-two to take into account the fact that an opponent has one great receiver. For instance, Carolina got a big third-and-long conversion on their drive to cut the Falcons' lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter. Smith ran a post pattern into the gap between the linebackers and the safeties in the cover-two. He was wide open and Jake Delhomme had an easy throw for a long gain. In those circumstances, why wouldn't the Falcons' linebackers take deeper drops in Smith's area to prevent him from getting open behind them? This is all obvious in retrospect, but doesn't it make sense to force Delhomme out of his comfort zone?

3. Matt Ryan's success is causing me to do a little re-evaluation of the way I view college quarterback prospects. In retrospect, when I was proclaiming that Ryan was unimpressive at Boston College, I was not taking into account his mediocre receivers and running game. Those conditions forced him to throw the ball under pressure into tight spots. In other words, his college experience was not unlike what most pro quarterbacks face. The lesson might be that pro teams should stay away from quarterbacks from major college powers who are used to great protection and open receivers. The April 2006 Draft class backs this up. Jay Cutler is doing very well; Vince Young and Matt Leinart are not.

Now, you might be thinking the following: "Michael, as a Michigan fan, shouldn't you realize that your alma mater is both a college power and a quarterback factory?" It's true that Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, and Chad Henne were surrounded by excellent receivers and offensive linemen. However, Michigan fans have often joked about the Wolverines' incredibly predictable offense forcing quarterbacks to make throws into tiny windows. That would be great preparation for the NFL. Brady was probably overjoyed in his first years in the league to come up to the line without hearing opposing linebackers announcing the play that Michigan was about to run.

4. Please tell me that I wasn't the only one who read Sports Illustrated's profile of Albert Haynesworth and thought to myself "linchpin of the best defense in football...native of South agent at the end of the year...plays a position of need for the Falcons...reservations at Bones?" Arthur Blank, I'll take back all the jibes about you falling in love with Keith Brooking and paying him twice his value if you can charm Haynesworth into black and red.

5. There are three historically bad teams in the NFL this year: Detroit, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The Falcons play all three at home.


Will said...

On 5. Good for us! It's not like we didn't draw some rough divisions for next season, so I'll take the cupcakes this year. Granted, that might look to continue our tradition of never having two winning seasons back to back, but I'm having to much fun right now to feel bad about it.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts:

1. "The lesson might be that pro teams should stay away from quarterbacks from major college powers who are used to great protection and open receivers."

Any relevance here regarding Stafford? The UGA line may not have been great this year, but the receivers for UGA have been outstanding.

2. Perhaps this was addressed in the SI article, but why would Haynesworth leave the Titans, particularly given that he also played college ball in Tennessee? Money? He also has a history of "incidents". Isn't that the type of player the Falcons are trying to get away from?

Will said...

I'm torn, personally, on whether or not Stafford will be a great NFL QB. Mainly because of two things. He's fallen into that Peyton Manning trap of never leading his team to a championship (and having Florida for the most part be his stumbling block, 1-2 vs. UF). I think this could be a good omen for his NFL career, but at the same time, he's most likely going to be drafted by the Detroit Lions or St. Louis Rams.

I don't see, beyond possibly Philadelphia and Seattle, other teams that need a new, young QB and will have a high enough draft pick this season to get him. The curse of the Raiders will, thankfully, miss him. Plus, if he goes anywhere high in this draft, he's likely going to be murdered behind a horrible O-Line (think former Texans QB from Fresno St.). That's no good for his longevity.

Which is not, I might add, much to keep him at UGA. Top 3 money doesn't come around forever, and if recent draft history has taught us anything, it's that staying in school costs you money in the long run (Leinart would be the obvious example). I just don't know how he brings himself back, especially considering the possibility that there is some sort of rookie cap next season.

Anonymous said...

#5 becomes a non-factor next year. The Falcons play the Pats in Foxboro, both Giants and Jets at the Meadowlands and Dallas in the new Cowboys Stadium.

Yeesh - next year will be tough.