Just curious...what do those of you out there in my no doubt rapidly growing audience (thanks for adding me to your Blogroll, Mack!) see as realistic expectations for the Falcons this year?
Here are the things I hope to see:
- Competitive play. I honestly do not care about wins and losses this year. I just want to see the team compete and look like they belong on an NFL field. I think 5 wins is probably a fairly realistic goal, but I don't know that they'll get there. Let's at least go down swinging.
- A new attitude. Over the last couple of years, this hasn't been a really "rootable" team, with few exceptions (Warrick Dunn the most notable example). We have lopped off a lot of dead weight over the last year or so in terms of veteran guys who didn't always seem to be buying into the whole "team concept" (I'm looking at YOU, D Hall, Alge, and most recently Joe Horn). The veteran guys who are left have a huge responsibility in teaching the young guys who have replaced them what it means to be an NFL player...the effort that has to be given at ALL times, the professionalism, not to mention the little things fundamentals-wise that take you to the next level, from serviceable to good or from good to great. Guys like Keith Brooking (even though he's a mustard jacket), John Abraham, Lawyer Milloy are good guys to have around for things like that, and from what I've seen from the coaching staff, I expect this team to resemble the professional teams of Dan Reeves moreso than anything we've seen from them since.
- Thomas Brown returning kicks. I love this kid, and seeing him on the roster and playing a significant role will begin to erase the horrid memory of the Hines Ward debacle (I mean, come on...JAMMI FREAKING GERMAN?) The Falcons seem to have moved away from their inexplicable avoidance of UGA players (Tony Taylor, Martrez Milner, Brown, Shockley), but it's going to take a LOT to wash that particular bad taste out of my mouth.
As for DJ, I'd love to have him in town, but I don't know if that's the best thing for him. The Falcons just drafted a QB #3 overall...that's their QB of the future. Since we should be starting a rookie (more on that in a minute), the 2nd stringer will probably have to be a veteran guy (most likely Redman). It may be better for DJ to get a chance to go somewhere where he can play, rather than holding a clipboard.
- Matt Ryan at starting QB from day one. I was not on board with this pick...I wanted Dorsey. But I will be the first to admit that Thomas Demitroff has forgotten more about evaluating college talent than I will ever know. So, we've made the pick, we've spent the money...let's put him in there, let him learn the ropes, take his lumps, and build for the future. It does us no good to have JoChris Redmington back there. What, are we going to win 5 games instead of 4? If Ryan's not mentally strong enough to go through that process, he's not the right guy, anyway.
Offensively, I think we may be better than a lot of people expect, as long as Ryan doesn't completely wet his pants. However, that defense....yuck. LB is the only place that can't be called a disaster, in my opinion. Jamaal Anderson does not seem to know how to play DE at this level (thanks, Rich McKay!), which means that John Abraham (when healthy) will be facing constant double teams. I like Grady Jackson, but he's a run stopper, not somebody who is going to get pressure on the QB. All of that means this...our VERY young and inexperienced secondary is going to be asked to cover NFL receivers for a LONG time. Not good.
We need to run the ball with Michael Turner/Jerious Norwood, keep it simple for Matt Ryan and try to shorten the game for our defense. Come up with a big play or two on special teams, and maybe we squeeze out 5 wins.