Expert Opinion: Falcons Could Have NFC’s Top Offense in 2012
By Greg Huseth
The NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks wrote this piece on the Falcons offensive potential with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and he made a lot of very good points as to how a new offensive scheme could improve the Falcons. Most of his points I agree wholeheartedly on. However, there is one comment which I would disagree with, and I would chalk it up to the media’s inability to watch every snap of every team. You’ll see what I mean here in a few.
The first thing Brooks writes is that Matt Ryan will ‘raise his level of play under Koetter’. This has been well chronicled here on Blogging Dirty as well as by the AJC and others. It has been well reported that Ryan has been bulking up, strengthening his throwing arm, as well as doing the preparatory things like becoming accustomed to his playbook and the new scheme under Koetter. These ideas in addition to the thoughts that Ryan will have the freedom to use the no-huddle offense more are not new to Falcons fans, but they are further being publicized on a national level.
His second point is that Roddy White and Julio Jones will get the ball more often in a multitude of ways. He said that the Falcons will not only use these receivers on deep down-the-field routes, but also in crossing routes, dig routes, routes in the intermediate passing and quick passing game that will highlight their ability to run after the catch. I couldn’t agree more with that. Both are excellent at getting down the field on 9-routes, but can be used in far more expanded roles than simply down the field. Here is the part that I disagree completely with Brooks.
Brooks says that ‘the Falcons’ passing game has been viewed as a vertical attack in the past’ but that it might change under Koetter. Excuse me? Where was I for all the happy-go-lucky down the field bombardment that was the Falcons’ attack? I have no doubt that the 2011 Falcons WANTED to throw the ball down the field more, and WANTED to stretch the field more, but with extreme struggles on the offensive line were unable to accomplish that. A big deal was made in the 2011 pre-season that the Falcons would focus more on passing down the field, but that was scratched after the first three or four games of the season for nearly an identical offense as was run in 2010: power running, play-action passing into the short and intermediate passing game. There really wasn’t time to develop down field passing plays. I can’t really blame Brooks– both the Atlanta and National media made a big deal of the Falcons desire to pass deep down the field more. Obviously it created an impression with the national writers (who do NOT watch ever snap the Atlanta Falcons take) that the Falcons were airing the ball out in the Georgia Dome. Brooks perceptions are not reality. Like I said, I can’t blame him for saying that, but it highlights the fact that the national media is sometimes completely out of touch with individual franchises.
Brooks final three points will not come as surprises to Falcons fans. He predicts that Jacquizz Rodgers will become a bigger part of the Falcons offense, especially in the screen game. He is tougher than you would think running between the tackles, and is very shifty when working in open space. I think in two-back sets and out of shotgun sets, Rodgers will prove to be an invaluable weapon. Many compare him to Darren Sproles and that is a fair comparison, although Rodgers isn’t quite as fast. However, the Falcons have a lot of offensive firepower, and only need Rodgers to be himself, not imitate somebody else. That will be plenty for the Falcons. Point No. 4 was that the screen pass will become a greater part of Atlanta’s offense, and I couldn’t agree anymore with that. Not only will Rodgers (and perhaps Michael Turner) be dangerous in the screen game out of the backfield, but we can’t forget about the screen potential in Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas in the slot or line up outside. They can definitely do things with the ball in space, and screens aren’t limited to running backs; receivers can be important targets as well.
The last point that Brooks makes is that the Falcons’ offensive line will be tougher in 2012. I can’t imagine it being much easier to push around than it was in 2011. Pat Hill will be able to help a lot with toughness along this unit, but his addition is not the only reason it will be tougher. Baker should be healthy at left tackle, and the Falcons have added Peter Konz to compete at the Center/Right Guard positions. None of the players who played those positions in 2011 were able to generate a legitimate push to block for backs or protect the quarterback. With players returning healthy, and addition of additional young linemen, the Falcons line is poised to be much improved from last season.
Brooks article is excellent from the perspective of a Falcons fan. I would love to see all of these things happen, and for the Falcons to become one of the top two or three offenses in not only the NFC but in the NFL. I can definitely see it all coming together for Atlanta. I also think that for the most part, these are things that can be improved or worked on; the Falcons don’t have to wait for opportune time or blind luck for these things to fall into place. Through hard work and targeted practicing, the Falcons can and will achieve and work on these things. Hopefully it will translate into the Falcons becoming the No. 1 offense in the NFL.