Well, the season is over and the Falcons were able to end on a bright note. I know thousands of Falcon fans are upset because it might have cost them their chance to get Darren McFadden. Oh well, the Falcons weren’t going to draft DMac anyway, so ha! But that’s another blog entry…
Quarterback – Redman had his moments at the end of the year, and proved he was the best of a poor bunch of QBs. Don’t get confused by his 90.4 passer rating and think this guy is a real NFL starter. Like the others, he’s best suited as a backup, but his play at the end of the year, gives the Falcons at least a cheaper and potentially better option than Harrington and Leftwich for next year. GRADE: C
Running Back – The coaching staff loves Warrick Dunn for whatever reason. Hey I respect the hell out of him, but it was quite obvious to even the most simple people that he should have been watching Jerious Norwood from the sideline most of this season. Unfortunately, Norwood continued to show his lack of durability this year. Unfortunately, all the flash of Norwood was essentially canceled out by the exact opposite of Dunn. GRADE: C
Receivers – White played well, well enough to potentially earn himself a role as an alternate for the Pro Bowl (he did not of course). Jenkins was the team’s second best receiver despite being fourth on the depth chart. Robinson and Horn played better in the final weeks than they probably did all year long. This position lacks a true dynamic No. 1, but there is some hope for the future that the WR crisis is finally over in Atlanta. This position hasn’t looked as promising in over a decade. GRADE: B+
Offensive Line – This unit was one of the weaker ones around the league, but considering that they featured the likes of Quinn Ojinnaka, D’Anthony Batiste, etc. for several weeks does say that their performance was not as bad as perceived. Frankly, they seemed to play much better over the last few weeks of the season. They weren’t good by any means, but acceptable. GRADE: C
Offensive MVP: Roddy White
Runners Up: Jerious Norwood, Chris Redman
Overview – The offense struggled all year long to put points on the board, and this was caused by a “perfect storm” of events: shoddy quarterback play, a lack of a running game, and poor blocking up front. I’m not going to blame one group or the other for it. They all worked hand in hand to produce one of the league’s worst offenses. GRADE: C-
Defensive Line – Abraham had a productive season, although in the middle of the year he sort of disappeared for some time. Jamaal Anderson was a big disappointment. Few should have expected him to record 10 sacks this year, but to not get a single one is pretty bad. Chauncey Davis clearly outplayed him, and if Anderson enters next year as the starter, then something is wrong with the Falcons brain trust. Injuries hurt the team in the middle, but Stanley and Lewis look like they can be contributors in the future, and Babineaux had his moments. GRADE: B-
Linebackers – Boley stood out from this unit. He was more deserving than White of being a Pro Bowl alternate, and he too got snubbed. Brooking had 1 or 2 good games, but that was about it. Demorrio Williams could be called Mr. Invisible, as he did nothing all year long except pick off two passes. The fact that he got significantly outplayed by an old, slow 31-year old playing out of position is telling. He won’t be back. Stephen Nicholas had a few moments, and at least looks like he can be as effective a starter as Williams was. GRADE: B
Secondary – This unit was up and down all year, and for the most part was the weakness of the defense. The lack of a true nickel cornerback, the “greenness” of Chris Houston, the lazy play of DeAngelo Hall, etc. contributed to inconsistency here. Hall definitely had his finest moments, but seemed to have checked out mentality for a few weeks until Petrino quit. Chris Houston was a decent as a rookie, but he’s still pretty green. Chris Crocker was forced to play nickel cornerback far too much, and did an okay job considering he’s a run-stuffing safety. I would say that Hall had the best first half of anybody at this position, but Milloy had the better second half, showing there is still something left in the tank. but the Falcons were clearly outmatched for most of the season. And it clearly showed by the fact that they were 20th ranked in pass defense and gave up the 6th most passing touchdowns in the league. GRADE: C
Defensive MVP: Michael Boley
Runners Up: John Abraham, DeAngelo Hall, Lawyer Milloy
Overview – The defense, relatively speaking, played fairly well. Had the offense been able to put more than 13 points on the board most weeks, this unit’s ranking would have been a lot better than the 28th (total defense) and 29th (scoring defense) that it wound up as. But this unit also seemed to check out mentally at a point during the middle of the season, and didn’t show back up until Petrino quit. GRADE: B-
Special Teams – Koenen played very well. Mort despite making nearly 90% of his kicks, I never felt completely at ease when he trotted out on the field. But generally speaking, if you discount the fact that 43 yards was almost the limit of his range, he had a good season. Jennings played a lot better down the stretch than he did at the start of the year, and I think can make it as a return threat in the NFL in the future. But there were far too many penalties from this unit this year, and one wonders how Joe DeCamillis is doing in Jacksonville? GRADE: B
Coaching – Under Petrino, the coaching was okay. The team’s play-calling and some of his decisions weren’t good, but for most of his tenure you saw there was a lot of effort from this team. Under Emmitt Thomas, you saw increased effort. But as far as the Xs and Os go, there wasn’t a major change. GRADE: B-
Rookies – It’s too early to throw out the “B” word, but Anderson and Blalock were far from impressive as rookies. They had a few moments, but nothing that gets you excited. Robinson and Lewis were probably the most impressive rookies. Houston showed some flashes, but overall was only okay. Nicholas, if not for injuries in the middle of the year, probably would have been the starter by the end and could have been added to that group. Milner, Stone, and Irons contributed as reserves, although the latter two were confined to special teams mostly. Datish sat out the year with injury. And Snelling flashed enough at the end of the year to think he has a decent shot of being a short-yardage back in future years.
Most Valuable Rookie: Laurent Robinson. Lewis probably had a more impressive stint, but due to his season-ending injury, Robinson gets the nod for a more complete body of work.
2008 Outlook – It doesn’t look promising, but one of the things that is going in the Falcons favor is that we will get a new coach and GM, and that could potentially energize the team to win some more of those close games. By my count there were 5 or 6 close games that the Falcons could have won, but did not. Perhaps the new coach can be the chief difference in that. I’m also optimistic since the team that had finished last in the NFC South each year has won the division the very next year, although if there was a time when that streak was likely to end it will be 2008. The Falcons have a lot of areas they need to address, none more important than the quarterback position. I expect the Falcons to win more than 4 games going forward next season, but how much more remains to be seen.