Quarter Season Review

We’ve made it through a quarter of the season, and this is where I think the Falcons stand…

OFFENSE

Quarterback – I went into this season hoping Joey could be decent. Manage the game, not turn the ball over, and barring Week 1, he’s done exactly that. Harrington struggled a bit during the first two weeks holding onto the ball a bit too long, and not making the best adjustments at the line of scrimmage. But Petrino seemingly lit a fire under him by publicly criticizing his play after the Jaguars loss and signing Byron Leftwich. Joey has played lights out these past two weeks, and there is beginning to be a buzz that perhaps he’s resurrected his failing career somewhat. GRADE: A-

Running Back
– This position has been an issue. Warrick Dunn is looking old and Jerious Norwood raw. Neither player has been able to provide much of a spark on the ground, which is causing the Falcons offense to be very pass happy (run-pass ratio is about 42:58). Artose Pinner has done nothing in his few carries. Both players have had a few good runs, but nothing to the point where our ground game has been particularly dangerous. Only perhaps in the Carolina game did our ground game looking impressive. GRADE: B-

Receivers – This unit has shown immense improvement from a year ago. By this point last year, I think I needed three hands to count the number of drops this unit had. But now, I think I can count them all on one and have a few fingers to spare. Roddy White has shown the most improvement from a year ago, as some thought he might not make it through training camp. Michael Jenkins has had a few drops, but played very well vs. the Texans. Joe Horn hasn’t done much to make his presence known, but he’s been reliable when the ball does go his way. Laurent Robinson hasn’t been great, but has played fairly well for a rookie that many thought was a reach in the third round. Alge Crumpler despite the summer injury, is playing very well. And the team has even got small contributions from Dwayne Blakley and Martrez Milner. GRADE: B+

Offensive Line – This unit just basically performed poorly during the first two games. They couldn’t handle the blitz, and the left side of the line (Gandy and Blalock) looked a bit lost at times. But they’ve rebounded well the past two weeks. The blitz is still giving them some troubles as the Texans showed, but it’s rather clear: they allowed 13 sacks in the first two games, and only 3 in the last two. Now, I’m not going to elevate them to the upper echelon in the league any time soon, but getting that sort of protecting for Harrington for the remainder of the rest of the season will mean very good things. GRADE: B-

Offensive MVP: Joey Harrington.
Runners Up: Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Alge Crumpler, Todd Weiner

Overview: The offense looked sluggish and confused during the first two games, still getting used to Bobby Petrino’s changes. But they’ve improved immensely the past two weeks. The only scored 1 touchdown during the first two weeks, while they’ve scored 4 the past two. GRADE: B+

DEFENSE

Defensive Line – Injuries have really hurt this unit, but despite them, it’s played fairly well. John Abraham has made huge contributions the past two weeks after a somewhat sluggish start. On the other side, Jamaal Anderson has been up and down. He has not shined, but hasn’t looked inept either. But he’s a rookie, so it’s not like he needed to have 6 sacks by this point. In the middle, Grady Jackson has played mostly well. Jonathan Babineaux also played well. Trey Lewis filled in nicely last week vs. Houston, and Montavious Stanley has picked up some slack off the bench. Chauncey Davis is showing a bit why he should be the starter instead of Anderson. Once Coleman comes back healthy, and Babineaux is healthy once more, this unit should see much improvement. GRADE: B

Linebackers – Boley has been outstanding and could be a Pro Bowl possibility. Brooking and Williams not so much, but both players have had their moments. Brooking played very well against Houston, and showing people he still has a bit left in the tank. His run-stopping abilities have declined over the years, but he still has some value. Williams has been losing playing time to rookie Stephen Nicholas. Nicholas has been fairly impressive considering my initial expectations were that he wouldn’t play much beyond special teams this year. By year’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting. They haven’t gotten much out of Wilkins or Taylor besides some special teams tackles. GRADE: B-

Secondary – This unit has had it’s share of problems. From DeAngelo Hall’s meltdown against Carolina, to Lewis Sanders being extremely flammable. Chris Houston has had some moments, but doesn’t look like he’s quite ready to be a starter just yet. So the team is stuck with the volatile and unhappy Hall and Sanders who has shown that it is possible to be worse than Jason Webster. At safety, Lawyer Milloy has been solid. Not perfect, as he’s missed some tackles, but mostly his mistakes have stemmed from attempts to cover up the mistakes of those around him. Crocker also hasn’t been great, but has made far less mistakes this year than he did at this point last year. Jimmy Williams offered little during his two initial starts, and now has basically been relegated to special teams duties. Antoine Harris showed some things early, but hasn’t done much the past two weeks. This position clearly is the team’s biggest weakness. GRADE: C

Defensive MVP: John Abraham
Runners Up: Michael Boley, Lawyer Milloy

Overview: The run defense has been up and down, as they didn’t have great outings versus Minnesota or Carolina, but played well against Jacksonville and Houston. Hopefully they can be more consistent as the season wears on. Minnesota has no passing game, so the Falcons stopping them is relatively meaningless. Our secondary managed to make Jacksonville’s receivers look good. And despite Hall shutting down Steve Smith, the rest of the unit was weak. And last week, they proved to be no match for journeymen Kevin Walter and Andre Davis. The defense has generally been okay, but they haven’t been able to provide proper support for the offense at key times (particularly vs. Carolina). GRADE: B-

Special Teams – Matt Prater bombed his first two games, and the team brought in Morten Andersen to replace him. It hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing, with a blocked kick vs. Houston, and a bad hold by Koenen vs. Carolina. But hopefully the kinks will be worked out soon. Koenen continues to punt well and is dynamite on kickoffs. The return game has been less than impressive. Norwood replaced Jennings there and has been okay, but not anything special. Jennings has had 1 good return on punts all year long, and if he doesn’t pick it up, should be benched. It looks like the team made a mistake by trading Allen Rossum. At the least Rossum would have given this team some insurance. Coverage units have been okay, but they haven’t been lights out. GRADE:< /span> B-

Coaching – Petrino’s play-calling hasn’t been perfect, but it’s generally been good. Execution of his play calls has been pretty high as well. And there really hasn’t been any cases so far this year where the Falcons just didn’t seem to get on the plane, like there were too many cases of in past years. The players are working hard and staying competitive, and many of the players are being put in situations that best help them succeed, and that’s all you can really ask from a coaching staff. GRADE: B+

Second Quarter Outlook – Well we have our bye coming up. And among our next four opponents, only the Titans look relatively unbeatable. The Giants, Saints, and 49ers are certainly teams that this team can beat assuming the improvement it’s shown in recent weeks is not superficial. The hope is that they continue to improve on both sides of the ball as the weeks progress. Ideally, we might be at .500 by Week 9, but I’ll be content with 3-5.

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
Founder of FalcFans.com