Something that the really good NFL teams rely on is depth at all spots on their roster. Obviously a team plays their best players at every position, and offensive linemen, quarterbacks, and some linebackers rarely come off the field. But it is important to have depth to keep the players fresh, and most importantly if a player goes down with an injury.
The Falcons have a very good first team of starters, which is going to be enough to accumulate a good amount of wins. Most of the scoring and good defense will be played with the first team players. Of that I feel fairly comfortable and confident after the good performance by the first teamers against the Baltimore Ravens last week.
The problem lies with the rest of the roster, who was outscored 31-3, including 24 unanswered points. That doesn’t bode well.
Look at the linebacker depth. The Falcons signed Mike Peterson when Lofa Tatupu went down with an injury, but he was signed to provide depth. Now that Akeem Dent has suffered a head injury, Peterson will play a good amount this preseason, and may end up starting in the regular season if Dent gets injured again. That would prevent him from being able to provide depth at other linebacker spots. And you never know how long the 36 year old Peterson will hold up, knock on wood.
Defensive tackle is another spot. Peria Jerry looked very good in the first preseason game, and that gave me some breathing room, but we all know not to count on him when the chips are down. Corey Peters is missing time with a foot injury. I don’t know when he will be back, but the Falcons need him to start at DT and allow Jerry to work in a rotation with Peters and Babineaux. I’m not sure how much production Vance Walker and Travian Robinson can bring. Then again, I could be wrong.
Secondary? We have three corners with great history, but if one of them is completely winded or is injured, who is going to fill in? Chris Owens and Dominique Franks haven’t been excellent in coverage in their careers, and the guys behind them aren’t much better.
Now for the big two. Quarterback. I don’t expect to have someone outstanding behind Matt Ryan on the depth chart, but nobody who played the Ravens looked good at all.
And finally offensive line. They had a good showing against the Ravens, but we don’t know how long that great protection is going to last. We also don’t know how productive the second team players would be if they were pressed into service. I know what Will Svitek can do, but beyond that there really isn’t anyone with a good track record. It is cause for concern.
Fatigue and injuries are something that are innate in the NFL. The best NFL teams don’t just win in spite of the non-starters on the depth chart: they win because of the solid depth on the team. I’m not a head coach, nor a GM of an NFL club, but I don’t think what the depth has shown will be enough to help the Falcons in 2012. Hopefully they won’t be a problem throughout the season.