While the Falcons are now focused on making a playoff push this season, as a fan I have the luxury of looking ahead to the off-season.
The second off-season is always pivotal when it comes to a recent regime change in the front office. There you are afforded often the opportunity to retain or purge many of the holdovers that do or do not fit into the new coach’s system.
We have seven current starters that will be unrestricted free agents after the season. And I think one prominent one that won’t be back is Michael Boley. Boley has really had a subpar season this year. Last year, he was consistently a playmaker from week to week. But I’m guessing either he just isn’t playing as well, or Mike Smith/Brian VanGorder’s defense doesn’t afford him as many opportunities to make plays as the scheme under Mike Zimmer. I don’t think it’s the latter since, I’ve seen many chances for Boley to make plays but he simply has not. He certainly would top my list as one of the most disappointing Falcons so far this year. Today against the Saints, one play I think summarizes the type of season Boley is having. When Deuce McAllister scored on that screen pass, Boley had an opportunity to make a touchdown-saving tackle. But instead of trying to wrap up McAllister like you’re supposed to, he simply lowered a shoulder as if that would b e enough to bring the 232-pound running back to the ground. That is simply not the 2007 version of Michael Boley. Now, he will have more opportunities to improve his play over the next 7 games, but if we get more of this, I think the Falcons would be smart to let him walk this off-season and promote Stephen Nicholas into his starting spot and/or draft or sign his replacement. He is just not playing like he’s playing for a big long-term contract.
Other players that have stepped up their level of play and look like they are playing for a new contract are Jonathan Babineaux, Domonique Foxworth, and Michael Jenkins. Babineaux won’t make anyone forget about how good Rod Coleman was for us, but Babineaux has improved each season he’s been a Falcon, and there is still hope that trend will continue into the future. Foxworth has only been recently elevated into the starting lineup, but he had a very good day today against the Saints, and he certainly is showing that the Broncos were mistaken in giving up on him as a future starter there. Jenkins isn’t great, but he’s playing better as the season has wore on. I think he and Ryan are getting comfortable together. And while I wouldn’t think about giving Jenkins a huge contract since he’s only on pace to have 43 catches this year, but he’s providing this team with a nice No. 2 option.
The other starters that will hit the open market are Grady Jackson, Lawyer Milloy, and Michael Koenen. Jackson and Milloy while I would welcome them back, due to their ages it’s probably best for the Falcons to focus on trying to replace them with younger and better players this off-season. Koenen has continued to be his consistent and accurate self when it comes to punting and putting the ball into the endzone on kickoffs.
Obviously the season is not over. And each of these players will have chances to change my mind (and potentially that of Dimitroff) over the next seven games. But in the case of Boley, it may be time for the team to start giving Stephen Nicholas even more reps just for the sake of covering their bases.