The NFL Network has been breaking down a team every day and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. You can find the video here with Jamie Dukes, Steve Wyche and others breaking down the Falcons team and roster.
The introduction to the video shows Jamie Dukes and the host talking about how very effective the Falcons were in 2011 when Michael Turner gets a lions share of the carries (10-1 record) and when he didn’t (0-5). The host asks that since the Falcons have been successful when handing the ball to Michael Turner, wouldn’t logic tell them to continue handing the ball to him and having him pound the rock? Jamie counters her argument well, stating that the Falcons are trying to keep up with the rest of the NFL, being able to open up the passing attack in order to score more points more efficiently. The problem that he sees is that the Falcons don’t have a Left Tackle, and can’t be successful with their current plans without one. Ryan is not a particularly mobile quarterback, so he needs a pocket to work with. I agree with Dukes: the Falcons need a better solution at LT than Sam Baker. Matt Ryan needs at least a slightly cleaner pocket than he had in 2011 in order for the Falcons passing attack to truly takeoff. I also think that Ryan himself needs to get better at working in a muddied pocket with bodies flying around him. It’s something Greg Cosell and Ron Jaworski have noted, and I have had difficulty putting into words, but perfectly sums up the department in which Ryan needs help. If Sam Baker isn’t notably better in 2012 than he was in 2011, the Falcons had better address the position in a hurry.
A second conversation took place talking about the pass-rush. The Falcons didn’t really add anyone on the defensive line who can make a marked difference this offseason, but Charles Davis noted that Ray Edwards wasn’t his normal productive self in 2011 while coming off of knee surgery. The Falcons only managed 33 sacks in 2011, which wasn’t a tremendous amount, and Edwards didn’t help much with a paltry 3.5 sacks. Davis projected that Edwards would get close to the 8 sacks he averaged his final two seasons in Minnesota. I also project that in addition to sacking the quarterback, he will bring pressure and hurry the quarterback more, which will only help the pass defense.
Naturally that brings us to the secondary, where the Falcons added Asante Samuel. The pass-rush and the defensive secondary are intimately connected: a great secondary can make the defensive line more productive, and a great d-line can make a secondary more productive. While the Falcons didn’t augment their d-line, the addition of Samuel not only strengthens the cornerback position (in both talent and depth) but having good cover corners will force the quarterback to hold onto the ball a beat longer, and allow the defensive line to get there and disrupt the passing play. It won’t happen every time, but the symbiotic relationship between secondary and line is undeniable. Samuel’s ball-hawking ability is the icing on the cake in the eyes of Steve Wyche.
Those are the NFL Network’s opinions on the Falcons. Feel free to share Falcons strengths and weaknesses with us.