I was going to post this on the main page, but ultimately I deemed it "too negative" to be well-received. So you guys instead can bask in the pessimism...
Basically it summarizes my issues with our depth, which I'm sure by now you've read ad nauseum on this forum.
It's no secret that most teams will collapse without the aid of their starting quarterback. NFL teams have collectively won about 34.7% of their games over the past two seasons with backup QBs in the game. Over the course of a 16-game season that works out to be about 5.5 wins, compared to the 8.7 wins average per team by starting quarterbacks. Meaning the margin of error for having a backup quarterback start is about 3 wins, which as anybody can tell is sufficient amount to determine whether a team makes the playoffs or not.
The Falcons depth at quarterback is a concern. The team will have to turn to either Luke McCown or Dominique Davis in the event of a Matt Ryan injury. Davis is still very green, and the team would have do a lot at this point to put him in a position to manage and win a football game. It would be similar to how the Texans put T.J. Yates in such a position. But unlike Yates, Davis won't be handing off to Arian Foster and Ben Tate in their primes, nor will he backed up by the league's fourth best scoring defense. While I'm optimistic that Mike Nolan can improve the Falcons defense by a significant amount, it will be a tall order to get what amounted to the 15th best scoring defense to a level comparable to Houston's a year ago. Not to mention the fact that Michael Turner is no longer capable of being the sort of grind-it-out workhorse that he once was capable of and Foster currently is. With McCown, the situation isn't that much better. For a single game, the Falcons might be okay, but if either quarterback was asked to play extended reps over multiple weeks, the Falcons would be in trouble.
But as previously mentioned, it's not exactly breaking news that teams that lose their starting quarterbacks struggle to win games. But the question remains, besides the quarterback position do the Falcons have ideal depth on this roster? I think the answer is no.
Some areas this team has good depth at such as running back, and once Corey Peters is back in the lineup, along the defensive line. But besides that, this team could be in trouble if injuries hit.
At wide receiver, if one of their three top wideouts were to go down with an injury, this team would be forced to start Kevin Cone. I use the word start because in today's passing league, the third wide receiver is essentially a starter. The Falcons were able to make due with Eric Weems at times last year with Julio Jones out of the lineup. But part of that was due to the fact that Jones wasn't as good a year ago. With most suspecting Jones to take a big leap this year, the drop off now to a player of Weems' or Cone's caliber will be a lot more significant. The same can be said at tight end. While Michael Palmer is a solid backup that reminds me quite a bit of Justin Peelle, the drop off to him from Tony Gonzalez is immense. Gonzalez has averaged 78 catches each season as a Falcon. Peelle's best season in his career was a 29-catch season he had in 2007 with Miami. That's potentially 50 catches that Palmer cannot make, a huge void that would be extremely difficult to fill for any offense.
Up front on offense, depth is not as big a concern. Part of that is because there isn't as much faith in the starters as there are at other positions. The perception is that Sam Baker is such a weak left tackle, that if the team asked Lamar Holmes to start there, it would not make a significant difference. But I believe that is a wrong assumption. Holmes is not ready to be a starting left tackle in the NFL quite yet, based off what I've seen this preseason. He is "very deliberate" in his movements (code word for slow), which was fine when he was going up against second and third string players in the preseason. But once he makes that step up into the starting lineup and would be potentially facing players like Elvis Dumervil, Trent Cole, DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Pierre-Paul, it's a completely different story. My hope is that Holmes slow movements are due to his being rusty and slightly out of shape due to the off-season injury he suffered. The hope being that with more time and work, he'll be able to speed up his game to a point that at some point mid-season he would be able to serve as a capable starter in the event of Baker's injury or benching. Given Baker's history, either one of those outcomes are likely to happen this year. With Svitek the team had an experience backup that we knew could handle being a starter. With Holmes, that still remains a major question mark.
As mentioned before, the Falcons defensive line seems to be fairly solid in terms of its depth. Kroy Biermann can be a capable starter if need be, while the extended reps for Peria Jerry at the beginning of the season should only make that unit stronger. Obviously, the Falcons could be in trouble if John Abraham were to go down with an injury, but between Biermann, Ray Edwards, and Lawrence Sidbury, they could probably keep things afloat. None are anywhere close to the caliber of pass rusher that Abraham is, but they aren't incompetent either.
But linebacker appears to be a potentially problem area. Mike Peterson is a solid reserve because he's experienced playing all three linebacker positions and can be plugged into the lineup in a pinch. But the problem is that right now the Falcons have only shown that they have one good coverage linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon. Nicholas is competent, and Dent seems untested. What would happen if Weatherspoon were to go down? The Falcons ability to defend the middle of the field defensively in the passing game would be significantly diminished. Not a great proposition when you factor in some of the tight ends the Falcons will face this year: Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, etc.
The depth at first glance appears to be solid at cornerback when you consider the Falcons have three good corners. But similarly to the wide receiver, the third corner at this point is considered a starter on defense. What happens if one of those three players goes down to injury? Who steps up then? Chris Owens? Robert McClain? What happens if that player happens to be Dunta Robinson? Who will play the slot then? Owens? We've seen the team attempt that experiment both in 2010 and 2011 with horrible results. Does this team think McClain is ready to handle such a responsibility? Will the team then shift someone like Grimes inside in the hopes he could then staunch the bleeding? Would it force the team to have to commit to a more traditional defense, rather than the base nickel looks they seem ready to deploy this year? Again, these are all remaining questions which can leave some lingering doubt as far as depth concerns.
Chris Hope is an experienced reserve safety that can potentially play either spot. But do the Falcons really expect Hope to be an improvement over a player like James Sanders a year ago? Safety is an injury prone position, and it would be a safe bet to assume that either William Moore or Thomas DeCoud miss at least one game this year. One game is probably no big deal. But what if it turns into four or five games? That could potentially be a big deal.
Obviously, the Falcons could remain relatively healthy this year and not have to answer any of these questions about their depth. But due to the complete randomness of injury, that is about as likely to happen as it would be that every single starter on this team was to miss at least one game. Who knows what is going to happen. But the potentially problems this team has with their depth could potentially undermine this season a lot.