Sitting in the War Room – part 1
At the beginning of February, when the 18-0 Patriots are taking on either the Cowboys or Packers in a much hyped Super Bowl XLII, the folks in Flowery Branch will instead be seated in a room full of coffee and donuts going over this year’s roster and figuring who stays, who goes, and who is going to be coming to join this debacle.
This is my account on the input I would give if I was able to sit in that meeting. And some are saying there are still three games left to be played, but for the most part if I’m part of the Falcons brass, I’ve already seen enough to make an informed decision on most of this roster, particularly with many of the long-time veterans. It’s the untested “Petrino-ites” (guys that have only joined the team in the past year) that are still somewhat a question mark: Redman, Snelling, some of the O-linemen, Jamaal Anderson, David Irons, Tony Taylor, etc. Honestly DeAngelo Hall could have 6 picks in these final 3 games, and it really wouldn’t do much to change my opinion of him (which is not very flattering).
So here’s the first part, and I’m going to do this in some installments to reduce the length:
My Assessment: Between Redman, Harrington, and Leftwich I see three No. 2s at best. I have no problem if one of these guys was the No. 2 for next year, but as starters they aren’t much. Sure, if I could put a Top 5 defense, Top 10 offensive line, and above average running game with them, they are all probably good enough to get this team a wildcard berth. But that’s probably true of every NFL quarterback (or at least should be). And the Falcons are a ways from that. And even if building that type of “supporting cast” is the goal, then why waste it on one of these guys? Why not give it to a promising young passer like a Matt Ryan or Brian Brohm? As for D.J. Shockley, he’s another body, but at least is a body that hasn’t been tainted by this season. So he at least deserves a shot to earn the No. 3 job next summer.
My Recommendation: Keep one of the above three. Whoever best fits the new coach’s offense, otherwise whichever one is probably going to be the cheapest (most likely Redman). Sign another veteran that can at least make a training camp battle for the starting position somewhat interesting. The options on the open market are likely to be somewhat limited, so in my head I’m thinking a washed up Steve McNair. Then use a first round pick on one of the top QBs in this class, and just hope the football gods smile upon us next season.
My Assessment: Dunn is “done.” I like Dunn. Great person, and for most of his career has been an underappreciated and solid football player. But he should not longer be in this team’s plans. Jerious Norwood over the course of this season has shown he can do pretty much everything Dunn does on the field, and does it better. Norwood is not an everydown back. Get him 10-15 touches a game, both as a runner and receiver in the style of Reggie Bush or Brian Westbrook and you have a weapon. Beyond that, he just lacks the durability. We need a physical back that can pound out the clock and run between the tackles. Jason Snelling is not going to be that guy. He might have a semi-successful future as a short-yardage guy. He’s your classic guy that you send to Europe for a spring to develop him further. Oops, that league is no more, so I guess that bodes ill for him. For fullback, Mughelli is overpaid, but we at least can still eke some value out of him as a lead blocker and occasional runner/receiver. McIntyre is a solid backup, but nothing more.
My Recommendation: Cut Dunn. I’m sorry Arthur, but he’s going to have to go sometime. And sign a “thunder” to Norwood’s “lightning.” I say Jamal Lewis. INstead of spending way too much money on an overrated guy like Michael Turner, Lewis fits exactly what we need in the position. He’ll be our “Deuce” while Norwood is our “Bush” (and I’m thinking strictly of the ’06 Saints, not this ’07 version). Not to mention he has a solid rapport with Ovie already. Also if you can draft another back in the draft, don’t hesitate to do it since Lewis is just a one or two-year stopgap.
My Assessment: Although Roddy White isn’t quite to the level of Braylon Edwards, I’m happy with him. He just needs to be more consistent and more explosive, and only that can come from within. Michael Jenkins on his good days is a lot like a younger Finneran was on his good days. Use his size to move the chains on third down. Horn looks old, slow, and soft. ‘Tis a shame really. Robinson has played looked like a rookie too many times, but I think he has a good future as a No. 3 at the very least. Jennings might have an impact as an explosive slot guy, but he still has a ways to go before he earns significant minutes. If at all possible, we need a No. 1 receiver that puts the fear of God into opposing DBs and coordinators. White doesn’t do that. We can get by with Roddy being Roddy at this point, but we’ll never have a potent passing attack unless he makes significant improvements or that playmaker is acquired.
My Recommendation: Don’t do anything. If there is a good receiver that drops in the draft, take him. Otherwise, this is a position where I’ll use the draft for depth. Obviously, any potential scheme change is going to play a factor, but these guys should fit the majority of schemes outside a traditional West Coast Offense.
My Assessment: Crumpler is old. His hands aren’t what they used to be, and because of excess weight and too many joint injuries, he cannot consistently get separation from opponents. Algernon should look in the mirror to discover the real reason why he’s become an afterthought. He can still be a productive guy that can catch 40-50 passes in a year, but he’s not explosive and unlikely to create very many big plays. Depth is capable with Blakley and Milner. If you could combine those two they’d make a decent starter, since Blakley has pretty good hands and Milner has shown things as a starter. But even in combined form, “Blakner” wouldn’t be as good as Crumpler is now. If we change to an offense that likes to spread out defenses and throw the ball down the field, then I would say we lack the proper tight end to run that.
My Recommendation: Ideally, we could walk away from the first few rounds of the draft with a young tight end that can stretch the field. But that is dependent on if the scheme calls for it. I would shy away from big money free agents like Dallas Clark and L.J. Smith even if they fit the scheme. I’ll probably re-sign Blakley, and if a decent player slips into the middle rounds that I think is better than “Blakner” I might take him.
Next up the trenches: offensive and defensive lines…