Missing Pieces the Atlanta Falcons Could Still Get for 2012 Season
But perhaps even more important than star-power is solid depth, and all NFL teams could always use more of that.
At times all it takes is one lesser-known player to make all the difference. That was especially true in last season's Super Bowl XLVI, when Mario Manningham proved to be the New York Giants' unlikely hero after making an amazing 38-yard grab and catching two more passes on what would be the game-winning drive.
For all the Falcons know, their own unlikely hero may still be out there.
Here are four players still available that could be the missing piece to the Atlanta Falcons’ Super Bowl run in 2012.
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Yes, Burress is 35 years old and his infamous off-the-field accident from a few years ago makes him far from the typical high-character guy Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff looks for in his players.
But Burress’ on-the-field abilities are definitely worth giving him a look.
The Falcons are in need of a fourth wide receiver, and as a proven receiver coming off a 612-yard, eight-touchdown campaign, Burress looks a lot better than anything the Falcons currently have on the roster for the spot.
His 6’5” frame would also make him a viable red-zone threat for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
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But he brings a lot more to the table than just that.
As a three-year starter for the New York Jets’ top-10 pass defense, Leonhard’s veteran presence and leadership qualities could only be a benefit for the younger players that make up Atlanta's last line of defense.
He’s still recovering from a season-ending knee injury he suffered late last year, but if he’s able to get back to 100 percent, Leonhard would be an excellent addition to the roster.
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Size isn’t everything in the NFL, but defensive tackle is one area where it’s a definite plus.
Last year, Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan had the 355-pound Paul Soliai plugging holes along the defensive line.
Now with the Falcons, Nolan just has 300-pounders Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters at his disposal on the team roster.
So why not get someone a bit bigger to play the same role for the Falcons as Soliai did for Nolan in Miami?
Someone like, say, John Henderson?
At 6’7” and nearly 340 pounds, Henderson would find a spot right away as a space-eating rotational run-stopper for the Falcons; a role that was last filled by the aging Grady Jackson five years ago.
The only difference is Henderson looks like he'd bring a bit more intensity to the team as well.
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Last year, the other quarterbacks beside Matt Ryan on Atlanta’s roster were Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson.
The long-time veteran Redman isn't getting any younger, and while Wilson has yet to throw an NFL pass as he heads into his third season, his lackluster preseason performances are enough to make sure he never has to replace Ryan in a game that matters.
It looks safe to say the Falcons may be a lot better off if they decided to bring in a guy like Dennis Dixon.
Formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dixon is a four-year veteran with just 402 passing yards in three career games and is a slight risk after suffering a few severe knee injuries.
However, he’s played well the few chances he’s gotten—including an overtime win over the Falcons in 2010—and he would be a definite upgrade at the backup spot.