Atlanta Falcons: Biggest Disappointments of 2012 Season so Far

Justin BlanchardContributor IIDecember 6, 2012

Atlanta Falcons: Biggest Disappointments of 2012 Season so Far

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    As a team, the Atlanta Falcons are experiencing one of the best seasons in franchise history. 

    The same can't be said for the Falcons individually, however. 

    Some players, like Matt Ryan, Robert McClain and William Moore, are exceeding expectations.  

    Others, meanwhile, are struggling to live up to theirs.  

    But who exactly are the team's biggest disappointments this season?  

    Read on to find out, along with their likelihood of returning next year.

5. Dominique Franks

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    Dominique Franks' career up to this point could probably be described as followed: swift rise, even swifter downfall.

    A late-round draft pick in 2010, Franks went from appearing in just two games that year to 14 in 2011, starting four of them.

    Last year's promising campaign, coupled with the arrival of mastermind defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, led to the belief that this would be the year Franks made the jump to the next level.

    Twelve games into the 2012 season, it looks as though Franks has instead taken a big step back.

    An overall disappointing preseason performance resulted in the team waiving him in final cuts before bringing him back for cornerback depth.

    But Franks hasn't yet taken advantage of that second chance, making few plays at punt return (18 returns for 144 yards) and even less at defensive back (nine tackles in 12 games).

     

    Chances of Return: 25 Percent

    At 25 years old, there is still time for Franks to turn his career around. It could happen in Atlanta, where he still has one year left on his contract. Realistically though, Franks' production so far this season leaves little hope of his return to the team in 2013.

4. Peria Jerry

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    2012 had the makings of a "make-or-break" year for the underwhelming Peria Jerry, a former first-round pick.

    The fourth-year pro looked to have made it in preseason, when he earned praise for consistently collapsing the pocket.

    Then, the regular season broke him.

    Jerry was handed a golden opportunity to shed his bust label when he stepped in for injured starter Corey Peters the first seven games of the season.

    But he couldn't make the most of that opportunity statistically, making just six tackles in those seven games (eight overall tackles this season) and on the field providing virtually no pressure on the quarterback.

    It looks as though the coaches may have already given up on Jerry, as he has seen his playing time shoot down from 60 snaps in Week 1 against the Chiefs to just 18 in Week 9—his last start of the season.

     

    Chances of Return: 20 Percent

    Jerry is signed through 2013, but it may be time for the Falcons to cut their losses this offseason and see what they have in 2011 seventh-round draft pick Travian Robertson.

3. Harry Douglas

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    In August, Harry Douglas was three years removed from a season-ending knee injury suffered in 2009. His new offensive coordinator was preparing to install a pass-heavy, spread-based offense. As the No. 3 receiver, Douglas himself was preparing to play a key role in that offense.  

    Instead, he has become the forgotten weapon in an arsenal dominated by Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. 

    The 28-year-old pro once known for his quick burst and versatility has become better recognized for  being Jones' main blocker on screen passes this year and is on pace to finish with even worse numbers than his 39-catch, 498-yard, one-touchdown performance in 2011, all of which are career-highs.

    He's shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, but if a healthy, veteran Douglas playing in a seemingly favorable scheme can't break out, it looks safe to say he never will.  

     

    Chances of Return: 75 Percent

    That being said, if a solid backup receiver is who the Falcons want in the slot, then there's little reason to believe Douglas won't be back after signing a four-year contract extension in the offseason.

2. Lawrence Sidbury

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    To say there were high expectations for Lawrence Sidbury this season would be an understatement.

    Coming off a promising 2011 campaign and welcoming in a new defensive coordinator who revealed his preference for a heavy rotation along the defensive line, all signs were pointing up for Sidbury in 2012.

    Then he just disappeared.

    Not literally of course—Sidbury is indeed still a member of the Falcons' roster.

    On the field, however, it's been a different story.

    The fourth-year veteran has all of one tackle in just eight appearances this season. In his last game—the Falcons' Week 10 loss to the New Orleans Saints—Sidbury played just 10 snaps, all on special teams.

    It's been that kind of season for Sidbury, who not only couldn't take advantage of Ray Edwards's release in early November, but also has seen his own backup, Cliff Matthews, overtake him as the main rotational player behind starters John Abraham and Kroy Biermann.

     

    Chances of Return: 15 Percent

    As a 2013 free agent essentially playing the role of a backup's backup in a crowded defensive backfield, it simply isn't looking good for the return of Sidbury in Falcons red and black next season. 

1. Michael Turner

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    It comes as no surprise to Falcons fans, but there's no question Michael Turner has been the team's most disappointing player this season.

    The 30-year-old Turner is on pace to finish the season with 240 carries for 900 yards (3.8 yards-per-carry average) and nine touchdowns on the ground, all of which would be career-lows as a Falcon (his injury-plagued 2009 campaign aside).

    He has had a few throwback moments this season, but overall Turner simply is no longer the powerful "Burner" he once was.

    The writing has been on the wall for a while now, and the emergence of Jacquizz Rodgers this season has just made it even more apparent. It's obvious that Rodgers, with his ankle-breaking jukes, warrior-like mentality and receiver-esque pass-catching skills is this offense's better long-term option at running back.

     

    Chances of Return: 5 Percent

    There are no guarantees in the NFL, but Turner's departure from the team this offseason is worth betting the house on, even with one year remaining on his contract.

     

    All stats and stat projections obtained from NFL.com, ESPN.com, Footballoutsiders.com.

    All contract information obtained from spotrac.com.