Pre-camp mutterings

Okay, so camp is only 4 days away and no rookies are signed. Am I concerned? Not at all. I suggest to anyone who hasn’t, read the training camp preview, written by yours truly. I wouldn’t call it my best, but I think it’s still a quality product. It’s probably not my best because after six years, you sort of get tired of saying the same things about certain players, like Alge Crumpler is perhaps the league’s best combo tight end, or Patrick Kerney doesn’t have great athleticism but has a killer motor, etc. The only thing that really changes from year to year is talking about new position battles and new assistant coaches and their potential influence. This year is definitely not lacking in that regard. If only for that reason alone, I think you’ll find the preview informative.

So because of the preview, there’s really no reason for me in this space to get too in-depth on my thoughts on training camp. They’re littered in there in the preview, although with a slightly “objective” bias.

I’ve noticed that my mood has shifted as camp has approached. I have no qualms about admitting that my love for the Falcons, I’m very much like a woman. There are times, when I’m “PMSing” and very moody, pessimistic, and skeptical about the team. And there are times when I’m full of optimism, vigor, and excitedness. This is one of those latter times. Usually, I PMS mostly during the NFL downtime of June and July, as there really isn’t anything to really get excited about. You get a few blurbs about mini-camps, but that’s about it. I think that time causes me to focus too much on the negatives and the flaws. Now with camp right around the corner, I start to focus on the positives and strengths of the team.

Like a month ago, had you asked me about the strength of our defense you would have heard me say that the potential is big, but I’m skeptical about if they can be a great defense. Now, I’m practically guaranteeing they will be a Top 10 defense. Okay, no not really. But it definitely is much easier for me to believe that they will be up there with the likes of the Bears, Panthers, Dolphins, Steelers, etc., those other teams that I think will have strong defensive outputs this year.

Everyone makes light of our undersized D-line. Very true. We are undersized. And if we can’t get play out of our starting NT and our rotation this year, things are going to go bad much as they did last year. I mean, on several occasions last year, if an opponent had been struggling to run the ball in previous weeks, as soon as they played the Falcons it became very easy. Good examples that stick out in my mind are the Patriots, Saints, and Packers. That can’t happen again this year. I don’t know who is going to win the camp battle at NT, but I think it frankly doesn’t matter. Our run defense was solid in 2004 because Coleman, Jasper, and Lavalais played well that year. We had a strong rotation. Ours struggled last year, not solely because Lavalais struggled, but because the entire rotation struggled. If 2004 is the model, then our backups are going to play just as much as our starters. So for our run defense to improve, we need Lavalais, Shropshire, Lake, and Babineaux all to play well.

Injuries are also always a big concern, particularly on defense. Injuries hurt us last year, but I don’t think it crippled us, like many of the excuse-makers would indicate. We still had a more than good enough team to make a deep run into the playoffs even with Vick, Hartwell, Smith, and others banged up. Every year in the NFL, you can always count on one or two playoff-caliber teams being crippled by injuries. Those teams may have been predicted to win 9 or 10 games during the summer, but will be lucky to win 6 or 7 by year’s end due to injuries. You never really know if your team is going to be that team. All I can really do is knock on wood and hope it’s not the Falcons.

Although many would like to blame freak injuries for a team’s disappointing season, I tend to blame the coaching staff and front office. That was a lesson I learned from Dan Reeves. I think it is incompetence if a coaching staff and front office don’t prevent decent depth behind your star and essential players. Right now, the only depth, or lack thereof that concerns me is at defensive end and safety. I think if this team were to lose either of the starters at DE or S for a long period of time, it would significantly hurt the team. But I do believe those are 2 positions that are more likely to be addressed by the end of the summer with a veteran signing.

So I guess there are no worries then…

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Aaron Freeman
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