One Step Back for Tony Gonzalez, One Giant Leap Forward for the Atlanta Falcons

John LawrenceContributor IMay 10, 2009

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 9: Tight end Tony Gonzalez #88 of the Atlanta Falcons stretches during minicamp at the Falcons Complex on May 9, 2009 in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  (Photo by Paul Abell/Getty Images)

As Tony Gonzalez starts minicamp with his new team in Atlanta, he is excited about his new opportunity but knows his yearly stats are likely to take a step back.  With 916 receptions for 10,940 yards and 76 touchdowns as (arguably) the best tight end to ever play the game, he is unlikely to match his 2008 Pro Bowl numbers.

Obviously, going from a Kansas City team that was very watered down in the offensive talent department to an Atlanta Falcons team with an almost endless supply of offensive weapons, Tony realizes his number won't be called as much.

Tony's trip down South is all about one thing, and it isn't his receptions total or touchdowns.  His Hall of Fame status would be secure if he retired today.  He wants to experience one game that has eluded him for his entire career thus far.  His trip to Atlanta is all about the Super Bowl. 

A Super Bowl Championship to be exact.

Sure, he could have stayed in Kansas City and hoped for a turn around similar to what Atlanta put together in 2008. 

However, the Atlanta offense was almost perfect going into 2009.  All the Atlanta offense needed was a tight end that could block well and was a good receiving threat. 

As head coach Mike Smith stated recently, Atlanta started their draft a few days early by getting a hold of TE Tony Gonzalez; the best receiving tight end available with average to above average blocking skills.

Atlanta was a headache for opposing defenses in 2008. Opponents had to stack up against one of the top rushing teams in the league with Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood (who are both extremely capable of breaking off huge game changing plays). 

However, they also had to plan for the Rookie of the Year Quarterback, Matt Ryan, with his deep weapons (Michael Jenkins and Pro Bowler Roddy White).

Just because Tony isn't going to be catching as many balls this season, it does not mean he is any less important to the Atlanta offense than he was in Kansas City.  Atlanta's starting tight end Justin Peele was not a factor of any kind going into any games last year. 

Tony Gonzalez was the last piece of Atlanta's offensive puzzle, and he will dramatically open up their game. 

Now, in addition to stand out 2008 rookie WR Harry Douglas, Atlanta gets to attack the short field with the best tight end the league has to offer.  With Tony on the field, Michael Turner will now have more running room and Roddy White, along with the other receivers, will often have weaker coverage.

Tony Gonzalez might have been in Kansas City for his entire professional career, but having to learn a brand new offense is nothing new for the NFL veteran. 

After Gonzo has a chance to gel with the Atlanta offense and gets into preseason action, you can expect Atlanta to give New Orleans and New England some pretty aggressive competition as one of the NFL's top offenses in 2009.