Okay, I should have done this last week instead of this week. But I’m glad I waited a week. Last team after the quarter season review we had just come off a win, and it seemed like things were looking up. Well they weren’t. But now after two wins, it does generally seem like things have gotten better.
Quarterback – Harrington has struggled and Leftwich hasn’t done a whole lot in his roughly 4 quarters of play. But Harrington has led the team to two wins the past two weeks, despite not playing particularly well. This position has been a problem over the second quarter, after seeming like a strength over the first quarter. GRADE: C-
Running Back – Dunn has played much better over the past two games, and Norwood has played well whenever he’s been on the field. THis position doesn’t look like a major weakness anymore, but it still remains that the Falcons ground game is far from good. It’s just getting better so far. If Dunn keeps this up and Norwood comes back soon, this position may actually be halfway decent. GRADE: C+
Receivers – While the big plays aren’t really there, this position has been a model of consistency this season. There have been a few drops but not nearly to the degree that plagued this team last season. Roddy has been solid all season long. Robinson and Jenkins have made contributions, and Horn’s play has improved as the season has wore on. GRADE: B+
Offensive Line – This unit got off to a rocky start, giving up 13 sacks in the first two games. Since then, the unit has given up 15 sacks in 7 games, which in terms of what the Falcons normally do in a season is actually pretty great. This unit is far from strong, but it has managed to survive some injuries, as it’s started five different offensive tackles. GRADE: C-
Offensive MVP: Roddy White
Runners Up: Jerious Norwood, Todd Weiner
Overview – Putting points on the board has been an issue. Protecting the QBs has been an issue. The offense right now is weak and at this point, can probably only be relied upon to put up 2 touchdowns per game, and that’s all. Outside Norwood’s runs, there aren’t many big plays on this unit. They are average at best, and generally one of the weaker units in the league. GRADE: C
Defensive Line – Injuries plagued this unit early on, but it has managed to survive. Abraham hasn’t been a monster each week, but he’s generally been good and for the most part has provided almost all the Falcons pass rush. Coleman looks to be improving after missing the first five games. Babineaux, Lewis, and Stanley have made contributions. Grady Jackson is gone, which is a loss, but doesn’t seem like a huge loss anymore. Anderson hasn’t done too much in terms of making plays, but he’s proved he’s not a liability against the run, which was believed of him. Hopefully, his pass rush skills will be showcased before the season is through. GRADE: B
Linebackers – This position has been somewhat spotty. Boley has been the picture of consistency and will probably be the only Falcon getting serious Pro Bowl consideration. Brooking and Williams however have been the spotty ones. Brooking has had some decent games, but it’s clear he’s at the end of the road. Williams is far from a playmaker, and besides two “gimme” interceptions, he’s been borderline invisible. GRADE: B
Secondary – This unit has shown immense improvement over the weeks. At the beginning of the year, I believed this was the weakest unit on the entire team. But in recent weeks, they’ve been able to make plays versus the pass and the run. Milloy looked done until two very good games the past two weeks. Hall despite his early season issues, has played well in recent weeks. Frankly, Hall is having his best season this year despite all the drama. Houston looks to be coming on as a decent No. 2 cornerback. Crocker and even Jimmy Williams have made contributions in recent weeks as well. This unit is looking like it’s beginning to gel. GRADE: B
Defensive MVP: Michael Boley
Runners Up: John Abraham, Lawyer Milloy, DeAngelo Hall
Overview – The defense has played well over the past month, at least relatively. They’ve made stops and essentially won 2 games when the offense could not due to their lack of scoring. The Giant game has been the only one where they gave up more than 28 points, an on average are giving up about 21 points this season. They are far from one of the better units in the NFL, but they are good enough to get this team some wins against lesser opponents. GRADE: B
Special Teams – This unit has some issues early on, but has been pretty decent over the rest of the season. Andersen is excellent inside 45 yards, but beyond that point, he’s bad. But despite this, I have very little confidence in him generally unlike last year. Koenen has been solid as both a punter and kickoff guy. He’s helped the defense a lot with field position in recent weeks. Jennings is beginning to come on as a return man, after a very very mundane first month or so of the season. Norwood is a capable kickoff return guy. And coverage units aren’t great, but generally don’t give up too much. GRADE: B
Coaching – Play-calling has a lot to be desired, but that seems overridden by the fact that this team seems hungrier and plays harder as the game wears on each week. This team is still competitive to the very end, with the Giant game being the lone exception, which is what you like to see when you are a 3-6 team. GRADE: B
Rookies – All but 2 of the teams’ 11 rookies have played this year. Datish is on IR, and Snelling has spent the entire year on the practice squad. Anderson and Blalock have started every game so far, and haven’t been great, but shown some ability. Anderson hasn’t shown much as a pass rusher, and Blalock has struggled in pass protection, but a lot of his mistakes have been mental more so than physical it seems. Houston and Lewis have essentially become regular starters as the season has wore on, outplaying Sanders and Jackson. Robinson has been a valuable No. 3 receiver and has seemingly taken that job from Jenkins in recent weeks. Milner is a quality backup that has made some grabs in recent weeks with Crumpler injured. Nicholas’s reps on defense have diminished over the course of the year, but he’s still a valuable contributor on special teams. As are Stone and Irons. So far the Falcons have gotten serious contributions from this rookie class, moreso than any other year in recent memory.
Most Valuable Rookie: Trey Lewis
Second Half Outlook – The second quarter was bad at first, but got good after the bye. Hopefully the Falcons can build off the momentum of the past two weeks, beat the Bucs this week, probably lose to the Colts the week after, but come back and win some more game
s against the Rams, Saints, etc. It’s a possibilty that this team may only lose 1 or 2 more games the rest of the way. I doubt that happens, but I do think there is a distinct possibility that we could win 3 or 4 more games the rest of this season to get to 6-10 or 7-9 assuming the performances of the past two weeks is not just a fluke.