Now that I have your attention.....
As the first game of the year approaches Falcons fans are confident and very nervous all at the same time. The confidence surrounds the offense. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Mike Jenkins, and Jerious Norwood are the reasons for this confidence (in addition to a physical and sometimes nasty offensive line). The Falcons lost a weapon in the 3rd receiver Harry Douglas this pre-season and nobody even blinked. I just saw The Sporting News put out a list of their Top 100 NFL Players. 5 Falcons made the list and I don't think anyone would be shocked that 4 of these players play on the offensive side of the football (Tony Gonzalez is 10th, The Burner is 42nd, Matty Ice is 63rd, Roddy White is 87th). The lone defensive player is DE John Abraham as he placed 93rd. Abraham is a beast and the new coaching staff used him effectively last year as a situational pass rusher and it was able to keep him healthier than in the past.
The defensive side of the football has many, many questions that will not be answered until the regular season gets under-way. Here are some questions going through my head that I will be thinking about while watching as Atlanta hosts Miami on Sunday.
- John Abraham had 16 sacks last season (and didn't make the Pro Bowl). Can he stay healthy and put up these same numbers this year?
- Former Top Pick Jamaal Anderson is labeled as a bust by many. He logged 2 sacks last year after having none in his rookie season. Can he have a break-out year this year?
- If Jamaal can't step up can Chauncey Davis take his spot and perform like Anderson was supposed to?
- Can Peria Jerry clog up the middle as a replacement for Grady Jackson?
- Second Year man Kroy Biermann and rookie Lawrence Sidbury both showed a lot of hustle and an ability to get to the quarter back and make plays during the pre-season. Biermann led the team with tackles and Sidbury led the team in sacks during the pre-season. How will this translate now that regular season is here?
- Curtis Lofton was fantastic as a rookie as he was third in tackles on the team without playing in nickel defensive coverages. Lofton will now be on the field 24/7 and will be the leader of this defense. Can he be the anchor in only his second year?
- Mike Peterson is replacing long-time starter Keith Brooking. How much of an upgrade will Peterson be?
- Stephan Nicholas will be starting for the first time. He's shown great athleticism and can hit like a ton of bricks. Can he be a difference maker on defense?
- If one of the starters goes down or struggles can Coy Wire or Tony Gilbert step up and play solid LB for us (like Wire did last year when Michael Boley was ineffective)?
- Erik Coleman was second on the team last year in tackles. Coleman was solid last year but that is not what you want out of your Free Safety. Coleman is moving over to replace Lawyer Milloy this year at Strong Safety and is taking over the leadership role in the Secondary. Can Coleman make the other guys around him better and keep this secondary from being the weak spot that it looks like it will be?
- Coleman also led the team in interceptions last year with 3. Yeah, that is sad. Can anybody step up and become a play maker on defense and force turnovers?
- Thomas DeCoud has won the Free Safety position in pre-season. Did he win the position because William Moore was hurt or has he earned the right to be a starting safety in the NFL and can he play at the level of a starting NFL Free Safety?
- The Corner Backs looked horrible in pre-season. Can Chris Houston and Brent Grimes play decent corner as the starters? If they can't can Chevis Jackson or rookie Christopher Owens step in?
- Thomas Dimetroff picked up 2 CBs late in the pre-season (Brian Williams and Tye Hill). Will either of these guys step in after a few games and be this years version of Dominique Foxworth?