2008 Atlanta Falcons NFC South Preview

The 2008 edition of the Atlanta Falcons should be an exciting thing to watch. In the middle of what is an obvious rebuilding phase, the Falcons will go through a learning period in 2008. Matt Ryan is expected to start week 1, and be rest assured he will incur some problems along the way as he tries to adjust to the speed of the NFL. The Falcons took the first step in their rebuilding process this offseason by getting rid of a couple problem child characters in Deangelo Hall and Jimmy Williams. They also are trying to get younger, dumping guys who have reached their prime in Warrick Dunn and Alge Crumpler.

KEY ADDITIONS:

1) Michael Turner – While Turner has never had to carry the load of an NFL team, he has had 4 years of learning from Ladanian Tomlinson. Over his 4 year career, he has only carried the ball 228 times, so his legs are fresh. During this 4 year span he also has a career average of 5.5 yards per carry and also has 6 career touchdowns despite giving carries away to Tomlinson inside the red zone. Look for Turner to have a successful career in Atlanta. The Falcons thought so highly of him that they passed up the opportunity to draft Darren McFadden to take Tomlinson’s backup.

2) Matt Ryan – The rookie will be thrown into the fire and will be under pressure to succeed right out of the gates. Most rookie quarterbacks take a year or two worth of pain and suffering before they are able to come into their own. A rookie quarterback on a young inexperience team equals a long year for the first year quarterback.

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3) Jason Elam – One of the most successful kickers of all time makes his way from the very kicker friendly Mile High to another kicker friendly dome. Elam is a very accurate kicker, whose leg is not what it used to be. He can still kick with consistency however, and Atlanta will benefit from his leadership experience.

KEY LOSSES:

1) Deangelo Hall – The former pro bowler from Virginia Tech fell out of favor with the coaching staff. While Hall is one of the best man-to-man cover corners in the game, there were times where he was burned. Never one to point the finger at himself, Hall will never admit fault for his mistakes, but will also be the first to point out his greatness. Hall is an addition by subtraction, much like Randy Moss and the Raiders last year. Loads of talent compiled with too much selfishness.

2) Warrick Dunn – Dunn is the complete opposite of a Deangelo Hall. A proven leader in the locker room and the community, Atlanta could have benefited from an aging Dunn and is the type of leader this young team needs. Dunn returns to Tampa Bay, where he looks to continue to help single mothers find homes in his community.

3) Alge Crumpler – One of the better pass catching tight ends in recent years, Crumpler headed for Tennessee in the offseason. He will be catching passes from another mobile quarterback who has trouble throwing the ball in Vince Young. Expect Young to benefit much more from Crumpler than the other way around.

4) Jimmy Williams – The third of a trio of Virginia Tech draftees gone bad, Williams was also let go after falling out of favor with the coaching staff. While Williams only had 14 tackles and 1 interception, he does have potential and if he is able to get placed it the right situation, he could end up in the pro bowl.

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Key Weaknesses:

There are lots of holes on the Atlanta roster, and picking one position in particular is a difficult thing to do. Wide receiver has plagued the Falcons for a long time. While the Falcons are in the middle of rebuilding, they have hung on to an aging Joe Horn despite his requests to be traded or released. Failed number one picks Roddy White and Michael Jenkins are hard to call a bust as they have never had a quarterback that can throw them the ball on a consistent basis. If this wide receiving unit can step it up, it will surely help in the development of Matt Ryan.

Key Strengths:

There aren’t many bright spots on this team. The defensive line however does have some potential. The Falcons have one of the best pass rushers in the game in John Abraham, and have a future pro bowler on the other side in Jamaal Anderson. The defense will live and die with the defensive line, so these two have to step it up a notch if the Falcons hope to even hit the 3 win mark.

2008 Predictions

The 2008 season will be a hard one to watch for Falcon fans. The rebuilding process is never fun or easy for the fans. The Falcons did have a number of draft picks in the early rounds of April’s draft, and found their new quarterback of the future in Matt Ryan. How this year’s draft picks develop will determine just how long it is before the Falcons are able to compete again.

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Here is a look how the 2008 schedule looks for the Falcons:

Week/Opponent

1 Detroit

2 @Tampa Bay

3 Kansas City

4 @Carolina

5 @Green Bay

6 Chicago

7 BYE

8 @Philadelphia

9 @Oakland

10 New Orleans

11 Denver

12 Carolina

13 @San Diego

14 @New Orleans

15 Tampa Bay

16 @Minnesota

17 St Louis

The Falcons compete in a division that features 3 teams that are all more competitive than the Falcons. Finding a way to win any of these games is probably unrealistic. Expect the Falcons to go 0-6 in their division in 2008.

Games against the rest of the league won’t be much better. Developing a rookie quarterback is not an easy thing to do, and the Falcons lost more quality players than they were able to bring in. They could seriously challenge the Buccaneers record as being the only team not to win a game all season. Their best opportunities will come week 3 against Kansas City, and week 17 at St Louis. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and predict a 1-15 season and the chance to have the first overall pick in April’s draft.