Ahh another season has come and gone and the Atlanta Falcons proved that whether Dan Reeves or Jim Mora Jr. are at the helm of this team we about as average talent wise as one can get. Making us question whether or not this team is as good as two years ago or closer to this past season. I think we are somewhere in the middle and injuries out of the gate hurt a lot. Especially considering two key guys to this defense went down before a snap ever really took place (Ed Hartwell was injured at somepoint during the Eagles game). So lets hand out some team awards and look at a few of the positives.
MVP -- RB Warrick Dunn
I could have gone a couple different routes for this award (Vick & Hall the top two choices outside of Dunn). But Warrick Dunn is my guy for many reasons that Vick and Hall couldn't meet. Whil TJ Duckett fizzled and Vick decided it was better to not run at all Warrick Dunn posted career highs and a muched deserved Pro Bowl berth. Other reasons for this are really off the field with Dunn's promise to Hurricane victims and community work that remains among the best in the NFL. Of course don't forget that Dunn was responsible for 56% of the Falcons #1 rushing offense.
Offensive Player of the Year -- RB Warrick Dunn
Warrick Dunn made up 56% of the Falcons #1 rushing attack this year and made the Pro Bowl. Granted Dunn didn't get many scoring opportunities but he busted some fantastic logic defying rushes that kept many drives alive. With Vick being so up-and-down this year and Crumpler catching a bad case of the dropsies hands down Dunn is the offensive player of the year.
Defensive Player of the Year -- CB DeAngelo Hall
When DeAngelo wasn't in the game our defense gave up points and yards left and right. Hall successfully locked down Terrell Owens, Eric Moulds, Joey Galloway, and Mushin Muhammad this season. He also notched 6 interceptions a forced fumble and 10 defensed passes. Nobody else on this defense seemed to have meant as much as DeAngelo Hall did this year.
Most Improved Player of the Year -- CB DeAngelo Hall
A lot of people questioned Hall after missing much of his rookie year with a hip injury and coming back while not showing a lot. Of course many more wondered if he would return to form after such a major injury. Well he did and better then I think many people thought he would. DeLo went from average to top notch in one offseason. Something even I thought would take more then one year for him to do.
Rookie of the Year -- WR Roddy White
Talk about validation. After Atlanta took Roddy White everyone on this board along with many other Falcon fans collectively said "What the hell?!" Well Roddy White is validating McKay and giving hope to everyone that we may yet have a passing game to work with.
Worst Overall Player of the Year -- All Atlanta Safeties
The safety play was almost non-existant regardless of who was starting for Atlanta. You just cannot have that sort of play at the professional level. I could probably come up with some high schools that have better safeties than we do. Just horrible overall.
Best Coach of the Year -- WR Coach George Stewart
Granted it didn't happen until a few weeks had passed and the proper adjustments where made to the depth chart; the Falcons receivers slowly started to shine. Michael Jenkins suddenly figured out how to make tough catches in traffic; Roddy White started to become the burner we needed; and Finneran proved to be one of the most clutch receivers on the team. Hopefully this team builds off that next year and things get even better next year.
Worst Coach of the Year -- DC Ed Donatell
Maybe it was Donatell's play calling that cost Green Bay a playoff run. He seemed great last year but this year Atlanta was exposed for soft zones and poor run defense on the edges. I believe that play calling had more to do with these woes then injuries and talent level on this team. Rarely was DeLo allowed to get physical and even more rare was the entire Falcons defense allowed to get aggressive. We lead the league in sacks last year and this year we rarely got aggressive.
Not Deserving Award -- HC Jim Mora Jr.
Every year someone gets a lot of heat that really isn't meritted. Granted Mora Jr. picked his assitant coaches but it was more his assitants than himself that proved to be the anchor to the Falcons this season. I think Mora Jr. is a quality head coach and doesn't deserve a lot of the heat he is getting. I may question him after the display against Carolina at home but I wonder if it was more the team giving up on the season than Mora himself.
Hot Seat Award -- QB Michael Vick
This coming season is officially put up or shut up time for Michael Vick. He needs to stop listening to the press and grow a pair. Vick's biggest problem this year is his ego and preparation skills alone. Defenses and press proved capable of getting into Vick's head an altering his play. Vick needs to get off his crusade of proving he is a pocket QB because he is not. Vick needs to play football his way and no other way. Vick also needs to properly prepare for games. Vick is suffering from a pre-madonna afflicition right now. He came into the NFL annoited Michael Jordan of the NFL before ever taking a snap. All he has right now is speed and evasivness (which is proving less and less every season). Someone needs to take Vick aside and tell him if he doesn't re-dedicated himself and find a love for this game he is nothing. I got on the Vick bandwagon this year but if he puts up the same effort next year that he did this year; I will be calling for his head.
Atlanta has ALOT of decisions to make this off-season and paramount among those are what to do with TJ Duckett and Warrick Dunn. I think priority #1 this offseason is to make Dunn's contract more cap friendly and hopefully Dunn will cooperate with this process. Along with this I think the Duckett expirement is coming to an end. He's shown flashes but nothing more then flashes. Before we ever consider moving Matt Schuab we should consider packaging TJ Duckett to get additional picks or move up in the draft. I think Duckett by himself is worth a high 3rd to middle 2nd round pick. We could probably use Duckett to move up from the 15th to about the 10th pick. But I think Duckett is the chip we should work with and not Matt Schuab.
Which brings me to my second point... Matt Schuab the Quarterback who might actually be worth his hype. The game against New England is what really set his value (even though at that point their defense was pretty banged up). I believe the Falcons best overall offensive performance came from Matt Schuab against New England. With Vick still not proving that he is really capable for being the full time start I don't think we should move Schuab (nor has Vick proven that he can stay healthy for a full season). We have another season before that decision needs to be made but unless we can get a good safety or corner for him I say don't move him. This team doesn't need a ton of draft picks because it needs more veterans than it does rookies. That was clear this season (especially in the second half with lack of leadership). IMO Schaub goes no where this offseason.
Obviously the biggest problem we need to address is safety. If we are going to burn a high draft pick on something I'd say burn it on a defensive end or safety. These are the only two positions I'd feel comfortable with a rookie starter. The offensive line and secondary need some veteran's to be added to the mix and not rookies. The rest of the draft should be addressing depth needs (DE, OL, DB).
Atlanta Free Agents -- Let them Walk
QB Ty Detmer, FB Fred McCrary, WR Jerome Pathon, WR Dez White, OG Barry Stokes, DE Eric Flowers, S Keion Carpenter, S Antuan Edwards, S Ronnie Heard, S Omare Lowe, S Kevin McCadam
Atlanta Free Agents -- Keep Them
OT Kevin Shaffer*, Todd Peterson
*Only keep Shaffer if he comesback cheap and accepts the fact that he will have to fight to start again.
Atlanta Chopping Block
C Todd McClure, CB Kevin Mathis (Should Retire), OT Todd Weiner, TE Eric Beverly, DE Brady Smith
FA's the Falcons should look at
QB Joey Harrington, QB Marques Tuiasosopo, RB Ron Dayne, WR Andre' Davis, WR Jabar Gaffney, WR Az Hakim, WR Antwaan Randle-El, OT Kenyatta Walker, OT Scott Gragg, OT Jon Runyan, OG Steve Hutchinson, C LeCharles Bentley, C Seth McKinney, DE Kalibma Edwards, DE Carlos Hall, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DT Larry Tripplett, DT Russell Davis, CB Nate Clements, CB Jamar Fletcher, CB Deshea Townsend, S Ryan Clark, S Will Demps, S Dexter Jackson
I'm not even going to get into the draft as I don't follow college football close enough. I do think with our first round pick we should target a defensive end. It is one of the easier positions to adapt to from college to NFL. With Smith gimpy all season it really proves that this is a priority position. After that I'd look at safety or corner in the second round and the address which ever wasn't in the 3rd round. After that address depth where needed. I think we need one marquee free agent signing on either the offensive line or in the secondary. But I doubt we make it as both needs are in the high priced positions.
Overall it was a dissapointing season that I would like to forget and will be marked with a second half collapse. I still think the team overall is on the right course but they really need to find a passion for this team because they didn't have it down the stretch and that is distrubing to me. After that this team needs a true leader.
Fear the BEARD!