Pro Football Weekly wrote:
June 27, 2006
Falcons 'D' must be MVP
PFW asks associate editor Jeff Reynolds for his take on the NFLâ€™s hottest topics.
Focus on Vick a non-issue if defense doesnâ€™t improve
The Falcons went to the NFC title game in 2004, when they went 7-1 at home, led the NFL in rushing and ranked 14th in total defense â€” including 48 sacks. The wheels came off for the Falcons in â€™05. Atlanta was 4-4 at home, 2-4 in the division and ranked 22nd in total defense, allowing 128.9 yards per game, and 31st in yards per rush. To avoid another letdown, the defense has to revert to its â€™04 form.
PFW: How can the Falconsâ€™ defense get back on track?
Reynolds: A deflating loss that didnâ€™t receive enough attention was the Achilles injury to MLB Edgerton Hartwell. Hartwell has the size to get to the ball without the protection of two giant defensive tackles to clog running lanes and has the instincts to make plays others might not. Without Hartwell, the Falcons had to reshuffle the deck at the LB position, and the lack of experience with Michael Boley and Demorrio Williams at the OLB spots was all too evident. Getting Hartwell back is as important as any offseason addition made by the Falcons. However, the run defense should get better with a healthy Lawyer Milloy (released by Buffalo), and the pass defense might become one of the best in the NFC with DE John Abraham (acquired via trade from the Jets) and CB Jimmy Williams (6-2, 208, drafted in the second round) expected to make profound impacts. Head coach Jim Mora will be on the attack with a very active and athletic defensive line that includes Abraham, DT Rod Coleman and DE Patrick Kerney. Whether the front seven can also make the adjustments against the run â€” the Falcons were shoved around to the tune of 4.7 yards per carry in 2005 â€” might be the greatest question. The collective talent level is impressive, but finding a way to make up for a lack of size and bulk is a must, especially late in the year, if the Falcons want to be a true contender. The final five games of the year could make life difficult â€” at Washington, at Tampa Bay, vs. Dallas, vs. Carolina and at Philadelphia
Mostly agree with this guy's assessment.