Falcons: A better balancing act?

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morecowbell
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Falcons: A better balancing act?

Postby morecowbell » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:32 am

http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/vi ... hp?t=98135

Questions, questions: All 32 NFL teams have them heading into the 2006 season. Today, we're addressing the Falcons' burning question:

Does this team have better balance on both sides?

Offensively, the team was run-first again in '05, boasting the league's No. 1 rushing attack at an impressive 4.8 yards per attempt. Defensively, however, it was "run-last", tied with St. Louis in allowing 4.7 yards per attempt.

For the Falcons to return to the playoffs, they'll need a more dynamic passing game and a much-improved run defense. With their personnel and schemes, both tasks will be challenges.

When talking Atlanta football, you need to start with Michael Vick. He was more of a pocket passer in '05, with 305 rushing yards fewer than he had in '04 in as many starts, 15. But the results were mixed. While his passer rating went up in certain games, it didn't help produce more wins.

Really, there's nothing wrong with the run-first approach, because it helps keep a defense that's predicated on speed and aggressiveness better rested. Vick, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett are all capable of producing consistently prolific combined efforts.

The key is getting a semblance of a threat downfield to keep opponents from ganging up. Tight end Alge Crumpler has done that a bit with the mismatches he creates, but he doesn't pose a vertical threat.

That's why there's much riding on young wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White. Both are big targets with good hands -- they just need to reach their potential. If Jenkins blossoms into a deep option and White can work the possession game, the offense would be completely different. There's also valuable veteran Brian Finneran as the No. 3.

With those kind of pass-catchers, the offense is in better shape for showing better balance. The changes made on defense don't inspire the same confidence.

Former Jets end John Abraham and rookie cornerback Jimmy Williams bolster the pass rush and secondary coverage, respectively. Lawyer Milloy provides a physical body at strong safety, and the healthy return of Edgerton Hartwell will give the Falcons solid range at middle linebacker.

This unit is perfectly built to make its living on big plays -- sacks and takeaways. The defenders swarm to the ball all over the field -- especially on the fast track of the Georgia Dome -- and force offenses into mistakes. But against those offenses that remain methodical at pounding the ball on the ground, the Falcons can get overworked.

While playing with a lead is key to keeping a defense aggressive, the Falcons don't get those big pass plays on offense early to get those leads. That allows teams to use Atlanta's own power rushing attack against it.

Unfortunately, the Falcons' two toughest foes in the NFC South are built that way. The Buccaneers and Panthers both have defenses constructed to contain Vick, and both plan to run the ball often with young Williamses -- Carnell and DeAngelo. The Saints, with Reggie Bush flanking Deuce McAllister, also have good rushing potential.

Though there should be some marked improvement on both weaknesses, it's unlikely the offense-defense cycle will click enough for the Falcons to push them above .500 in such a difficult division.

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Postby BirdBrain » Wed Jun 07, 2006 11:01 am

Thanks cowbell.....pretty much my feelings as well about the 4 critical games we have with TB and Carolina...they have our number now, and are constructed to beat us, we have to treat them like we did Philly the first game of last year.....we MUST show them we have a bad taste in our mouths after getting punked, and we aren't going to take it anymore...right now the line on the Carolina game is -3.5 for The home team...I'm afraid i would take that in a minute as I haven't seen anything that tells me otherwise.

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Postby widetrak21 » Wed Jun 07, 2006 11:54 am

"we have to treat them like we did Philly the first game of last year"

Thats the key to me. We've pretty much analyzed us versus Carolina till we're blue in the face. At this point we all know its close talent wise. We know they've been more consistent than us. So lets focus on the line above, just like we did when we smacked Philly in the chops last year.

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Worse

Postby MarylandFalcon1 » Wed Jun 07, 2006 12:09 pm

Well, we can't do any worse against those two teams this year since we were beaten twice by both, however we could tip the 'balance' and beat the Bucs twice in games we dominated and still lost.

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Postby Pudge » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:35 pm

Article sort of reminds me of why I've been harping on big plays this year. The Falcons finished 26th in the league in big plays last year, counting sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, passes defended, tackles behind the line, and defensive TDs.

We need to be more aggressive on that side of the ball.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.

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Postby Steve-O » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:51 pm

it's all about our defense...even if Vick didn't really progress and played at the same level he did last year we'd still be ok if we can stop the run...

that's the biggest thing we need to get better at...there is nothing in the world more demoralizing and back breaking that not being able to stop the run...

hell even if we had of been middle of the pack against the run last season we probably would have went 12-4 and made the playoffs...

Not that Vick improving isn't sometihng I am looking and hoping for, but he wasn't our biggest problem last season

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Postby buddyboy » Wed Jun 07, 2006 2:32 pm

i agree about the critical nature of the run defense. we were in it to the very end of the season even with our swiss cheese defense line. even less than a mediocre run defense would have got us in the playoffs. it's just amazing how we went flip flopped from being one of the best to one of the worst from 04 to 05. hopefully we'll flop back to one of the best. mora has always said the essence of this team is running well on offense and stopping the run on defense.

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Postby dirtybirdnw » Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:19 pm

What would really suck is if this Falcon team reached it's zenith of performance and talent and it still isn't enough because the rest of the NFC South happened to peak at the same exact time and just a little bit higher than the Falcons.
Fear the BEARD!

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Postby buddyboy » Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:58 pm

dirtybirdnw wrote:What would really suck is if this Falcon team reached it's zenith of performance and talent and it still isn't enough because the rest of the NFC South happened to peak at the same exact time and just a little bit higher than the Falcons.

that's a dark turn of thoughts. if it were to happen we would prolly only recognize it years afterwards through the glass of hindsight and perspective. but i see why you say that, every other team in the south is getting significantly stronger including new orleans.

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Postby Robb4242 » Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:18 am

Like the article says, we are trying to be a big play defense, and there is nothing wrong with that, it's actually a good thing........if you can stop the little plays. And that is where our problem lies. Giving up 4.7 ypc is a sure-fire way to lose ballgames. If we can't stop a team from running, even a team like Green Bay who was using a 3rd sting RB against us the entire game, then we are not going to win a majority of our games, no matter how well the offense clicks or how many big plays we get defensively in the passing game. Teams will wear down our defense running the ball and if we don't get out to early leads, and big leads, then we are in trouble every game until we prove we can stop the run. John Abraham, while a great player when healthy, does not do much to help us stop the run. Hartwell might help some, but he's still got to be a question mark coming off the injury & not getting many reps last year in a new defensive scheme for him. We need to replace Lavalis right away with a starter, I'm all for keeping him as a backup, I think he could be solid for 7 - 10 plays a game, but he's done after that. We've basically got the same problems that worried me going into last year and that's even if we score 35 points a game, it's not going to win us games if we are giving up 38. I feel a little better this year, but still not a warm & fuzzy yet.

Did anyone else notice in the artice that the writer thinks Jenkins will be the deep threat & White the possession receiver????? Most everything I've heard indicates the opposite.

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Postby widetrak21 » Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:32 am

I had actually thought about that. My solice was our X factor, Vick, and his growth. In a tight division like ours, he on offense, and DeLo on defense are the difference makers to me. Otherwise the NFC South and East could be a pickem situation right now.

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Postby Pudge » Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:46 am

Jenkins is definitely the possession guy. He led the NFC last year in percentage of his catches that were 1st downs.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.


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