With now two more days to let the Falcons Julio Jones mega-trade sink, I’m not nearly so negative about it. Why? Because it seemingly is sending the Falcons in a new direction. I don’t necessarily completely embrace that new direction, but I am at least interested and curious to see where it leads them.
And that new direction is for the Falcons to more of an explosive finesse team. It seems the Falcons are trying to take a page from the New England Patriots. I think the Falcons popped in the tape of the past few Patriots seasons and got envious.
I think the Falcons really strengthened their offense in the 2011 NFL Draft. The addition of Jones gives the team an Andre Johnson-esque playmaker at wide receiver. The team drafted Jacquizz Rodgers, who reminds me a lot of Warrick Dunn when he was carving up NFC South defenses in Atlanta years ago. And the Falcons added another good, developmental offensive guard in Andrew Jackson.
And if the Falcons are going to really make the most of this draft class, then they need to embrace this new direction which is to score a lot of points. The new identity of the team should be less of a power-oriented rushing attack, but more of a pass-heavy attack. They gave up a lot for Jones, and in order to get the most out of him going forward and trying to make him into a Johnson-esque playmaker on the outside, then they need to feed him the rock. And that means less touches for the running game. The Falcons should re-focus their offensive identity around the notion that their four most dynamic players and best assets are all in the passing game which is Jones, White, Douglas in the slot, and Rodgers out of the backfield.
In New England, the Patriots have a similar quick, undersized running back in Danny Woodhead. And the Patriots offense gets Woodhead on average about 10 touches a game on the ground and in the air. The Falcons have a much better player in Rodgers, and he needs to get at least that much. The Falcons need to throw the ball to Jones as well, and get him at least 8-12 targets a game, which is about the same workload that Roddy White has had over the years, and comparable to what Tony Gonzalez had during his first season in Atlanta.
Now, I don’t think this has to occur overnight, but I do think starting in 2012 the Falcons need to embrace this new direction if they want to get the most out of their offense and these 2011 draft picks going forward.
And thus I think this definitely should be the last seasons of Michael Jenkins and Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta. Okay, I’d be willing to bring back Gonzo in 2012 if he wants to. But he would no longer be a featured part of the offense. He would be featured as much as say Heath Miller is in Pittsburgh. And Michael Turner might also be gone, unless he can find a way to be as effective with the possibility of his workload being drastically reduced by as much as half. If Turner is willing to play in a scheme where he’s no longer the focus of the offense, then he’s welcome back. He’d have to be willing to accept that he’s just a better version of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and a very good role player. Under no circumstances do I imagine Jenkins really being a Falcon in 2012 in this scenario. His role in the offense will likely be taken over by Douglas, who I think in this new offense can be a Wes-Welker light.
If the Falcons make these changes to their identity going forward, then I think this trade can be a very good one in the long-term. But if the Falcons gave up what they did, just to have Jones and Rodgers be complementary pieces to the style of offense and personnel they have currently, then I still think it’s a bad move.