by Justin of The Sportmeisters
The Atlanta Falcons showed in 2008 that they were not content with mediocrity. They made two of the best offseason acquisitions of last summer with the additions of franchise QB Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. They showed that with intelligent signings, it is possible to go from a dismal 4-12 to Playoff contender in one season.
Atlanta transformed into an 11-5 NFC South power. The main reason for the success was an offense that was in the top twenty in the league in every statistical category last year. All of that was with a rookie QB?
The Falcons ranked sixth in the league in overall offensive production, second in rushing yards, and fourteenth in passing yards last season. But now that a great running game and a pretty good passing game have been established, the question remains: What should the franchise look to acquire in the 2009 NFL Draft?
Can you say defense, defense, and even more defense?
The Falcons' Picks in '09
- Round 1: Pick 24
- Round 2: Pick 23
- Round 3: Pick 26
- Round 4: Pick 25
- Round 5: Pick 24
- Round 6: Pick 23
- Round 7: none (to Denver)
Team Need No. 1: Defensive Tackle
The Falcons were average at best last year in rush defense, as they ranked 25th in the league. The club's leading tackler was an aging Keith Brooking, who accumulated 102 total.
The focus should remain on the interior defensive linemen. They're there to command double teams and hold the offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage so that the linebackers in the base 4-3 defense can move freely through gaps to make tackles in the backfield.
The only lineman that commanded that kind of attention last year was John Abraham, who notched 16.5 sacks in '08, good enough for third in the league. Jonathan Babineaux (11) was the only other Falcon even close to that number.
While it is not impossible to see the Falcons taking a linebacker in the upcoming draft, I'd say that a superior defensive lineman can make an average linebacking core great instantly. A superior young linebacker will need time to make others around him better.
By addressing the interior defensive lineman spot needs first, Atlanta can get a couple more productive years out of Brooking and company.
Team Need No. 2: Safety
As if giving up yards on the ground wasn't bad enough, the Falcons accompanied it with a 21st ranked pass defense.
Now, one might think that shut-down corners are a must in order to have a top-ranked pass defense. I'll say this: It couldn’t hurt, but look around the league and in the Draft, and you'll see that shut-down corners are hard to come by.
What the Falcons could use instead is a safety that could come up in run support and who also has the athletic ability to make plays in coverage.
If they were to play a cover-two look with an experienced linebacker (such as Keith Brooking) dropping into the deep middle of the field with two talented safeties over the top, the Falcons could perhaps mask theirvulnerable corners and create the façade of a much-improved secondary.
Team Need No. 3: Defensive End
The appearance of this need on this list should not come as much of a surprise considering the man opposite Abraham, Jamaal Anderson, only recorded two sacks this past season. And Anderson only missed one game, so injuries were not the problem.
The Atlanta defense needs two ends that put pressure on opposing quarterbacks on passing plays and can beat a one-on-one block on running plays in order to make any blitz a the defensive coordinator plans effective.
The Falcons made leaps and bounds in just one offseason, as in the summer of 2008 they revamped the offensive side of the ball and increased their campaign win total by seven.
Now, it's up to the management to focus on the other side of the ball so that this team can do more than just win regular-season contests.
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