2009 Atlanta Falcons Season Preview
2009 Atlanta Falcons preview from MadduxSports.com. The NFC South is a very difficult division to forecast on a year to year basis and the NFL lines makers often put up some soft numbers that sharp nfl handicappers pounce on. In 2009 be on the right side of games with the help of Maddux Sports handicapping team.
2009 Atlanta Falcons Predictions
By Adam Barone
The Falcons were the big story in the NFL last season, making the playoffs with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback amid the Michael Vick circus. The signing of running back Michael Turner also worked out perfectly for Atlanta, as Turner jumped out from LaDainian Tomlinson’s shadow to rank among the league’s leading rushers. For an encore, the Falcons traded for ten-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Second year quarterback Matt Ryan will look to take his place among the league’s elite quarterbacks in 2009, after throwing for 3,440 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2008. As a rookie his quarterback rating was 87.7, so there’s obviously room for some improvement. He made an immediate connection with wide receiver Roddy White, who caught 88 passes for almost 1,400 yards to go with seven touchdowns. Gonzalez, a five time All-Pro, caught 96 passes in 2008 with Kansas City, a ridiculous tally for a tight end. The passing game could reach elite status in 2009.
The offensive line allowed just 17 sacks last season, the fifth fewest in the league. They were also the driving force for Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood and the running game, which averaged 152.7 yards per contest, the second most in the league. Turner doesn’t catch the ball out of the backfield very well, but it didn’t seem to matter in ‘08. He carried the rock an astounding 376 times, averaging 4.5 yards per carry for a total of 1,699 yards. He also scored 17 touchdowns. He’ll need to prove that all that wasn’t a fluke in the coming season. Norwood gets moved around because of his speed and versatility similar to Reggie Bush, keeping defenses honest. He may line up at running back, receiver, or even quarterback.
Seriously, Barrack Obama will mail you a check every time you compare someone to Reggie Bush. It’s part of the stimulus package. Get on board.
Head coach Mike Smith, formerly the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, did a great job with the defense last season. He lost a number of key parts on that side of the ball through free agency though. Five starters—cornerback Domonique Foxworth, linebackers Michael Boley and Keith Brooking, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, and safety Lawyer Milloy—are all gone.
The addition of former Jaguar linebacker Mike Peterson should cushion the blow some, as he’s familiar with Smith’s scheme. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who had 20 tackles and a sack in 2008, will take over at the other empty linebacker spot. Second year player Curtis Lofton will remain in the middle.
End John Abraham set a franchise record with 16.5 sacks, and forced four fumbles. He and Jamaal Anderson make a quality tandem on the ends, with rookie first round pick Peria Jerry replacing Grady Jackson in the middle. Jackson was too heavy and slow to function in Smith’s scheme. Jackson went to Detroit, the storage bin for lousy players.
The secondary is very young and has multiple jobs up for grabs with the losses of Milloy and Foxworth. The Falcons got lucky last season and had very few injuries. They’ll probably have to get lucky again this season and have a few players take big steps on defense, especially in the secondary. Chris Houston will need to live up to his pedigree, or the team could be in trouble.
Jason Elam was signed before 2008 to kick for the Falcons, and helped bring the team a lot of confidence. Jerious Norwood and Harry Douglas did and will still handle return duties.
The Falcons are one of the more exciting young teams in the league, and Matt Ryan is one of its up-and-coming young stars. If Smith can overcome the losses on defense, this team could gain a stronghold on a division that is very winnable.