Atlanta Falcons season preview

Last years record: 7-9 (3rd place in division)
Coach: Bobby Petrino

Key Additon: Joey Harrington didn’t look like a huge pickup earlier in the off season but now with the Michael Vick scandal it’s a whole different story. Harrington has had some decent performances but hasn’t played like a starter so far in his career. He could end up being a solid player as he will now have good protection in the pocket. Bobby Petrino should help his cause as he is supposed to be an offensive genius and teams were after him for years.

Key Loss: Patrick Kerney when healthy was a sack machine. The only problem was that didn’t happen much. Kerney had lots of nagging injuries in Atlanta and was getting up in age. The team didn’t have enough money to meet his contract demands and Jamaal Anderson is a solid replacement as a rookie.

Draft: This looks like a pretty good draft for the Falcons as they got lots of youth at positions that were having problems last year. 1st round defensive end Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas should be a double digit sack threat as he is very fast off the edge and should start right away. 2nd round offensive tackle Justin Blaylock should also start right away on one of the best lines in the league. Chris Houston another second rounder from Arkansas could start at corner opposite DeAngelo Hall. Houston has 4.3 speed and shut down some of the best receivers in the nation. 3rd round receiver Laurent Robinson out of Illinois State is very athletic and should be developed into a starter. 4th round linebacker Stephen Nicholas from USF is a physical specimen who’s skills are very raw and could start in a few years.

Offense: The loss of Michael Vick kills this offense as defenses no longer have to fear his play making ability. Vick would be lucky if he ever wears an NFL uniform again which won’t help the Falcons salary cap. Joey Harrington is a more accurate passer but is nothing near Vick’s freakish athletic ability. Harrington starting should make the receivers happy as he won’t take off before the receivers finish routes. Warrick Dunn had back surgery and is scheduled to miss all of the preseason and could lose his starting job also. Jerious Norwood was very impressive last year as he had 633 yards last year on only 99 carries. Norwood has potential to be a 1300 yard back. Considering how much money is spent on the receivers, they aren’t that good. Joe Horn was picked up in the off season but isn’t the player he used to be. Michael Jenkins is a good athlete who hasn’t lived up to his 1st round pick a few years back. Alge Crumpler is one of the most reliable tight ends in the league. He should have an even bigger impact this year as Harrington is just learning the offense and the tight end is the biggest target on the field. Todd Wiener leads a good offensive line as the Falcons had the best rushing offense in the league mainly due to Michael Vick taking off without looking at his receivers route progression.

Defense: This defense looks a lot better on paper then they do on the field. When John Abraham is healthy, he is one of the premiere defensive ends in the league and could get around 12 sacks. Rod Coleman and Grady Jackson are a great tandem of defensive tackles as Jackson clogs up the line and Coleman is athletic enough to rush the passer. The linebackers are led by Keith Brooking who is very passionate about the game and is a tackle machine. Linebackers Demorrio Williams and Michael Boley are both very young and athletic and should improve this year. DeAngelo Hall is one of the premiere corners in the game as he had 4 interceptions and shuts down the best receiver the opponent has to offer. The safties aren’t the best as Lawyer Milloy is getting up in age and Chris Crocker is very inexperienced.

Fantasy Studs: Jerious Norwood RB: Norwood was solid as a rookie last year but could have a breakout campaign. If Warrick Dunn isn’t healthy in time for the regular season, Norwood is the starter. Keep him as a no.3 fantasy back for now.
Alge Crumpler TE: Crumpler had a career high 8 touchdowns last year but don’t expect those numbers this year. Crumpler was Vick’s go to guy but his production should drop as Harrington will spread the ball around more. He should still be a good no.1 fantasy tight end.

Prediction: Michael Vick has officially ruined the season for the Falcons as he will probably never wear an NFL uniform again. Otherwise this is a pretty solid Falcons team but the quarterback position is so poor it kills all hope. My prediction is 4-12 and last place in the division.

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