Changes For The Atlanta Falcons In 2009

Anthony HammettCorrespondent IMay 28, 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)

Once you take a look around the Atlanta Falcons training facility in Flowery Branch, it's pretty obvious who the new face in town is.


Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez will add a dimension to the Falcons' offense that they have lacked since Alge Crumpler.

The difference is Gonzalez is even better than Crumpler was. That's not a knock on Alge Crumpler, who was very productive when healthy during his time as a Falcon. He just isn't the all-time leading receiver from the tight end position.

If Tony Gonzalez can catch at least 20 passes in his first year with the Falcons, he will have equaled the number of catches every tight end on the Falcons roster had last season combined.



Normally, after a year Atlanta had last season offensively, you wouldn't want to change much. However, Tony Gonzalez must get the opportunity to do what he does best, which in turn will open up every one else on the offense to have more space to work with.

Look for Mularkey to come up with creative ways to get Gonzalez the ball by lining him up on the weak side sometimes, and maybe even using him in the slot when the situation calls for it.

If Ryan can connect with Gonzalez on short, intermediate routes over the middle of the field, it will make it much easier for Michael Turner to convert a run with a short yardage situation.

The short intermediate pass will also eventually cause the safeties to move in some, which in turn gives Roddy White and Michael Jenkins the opportunity to burn the opposing defense with deep routes.



The defensive will have a different look in 2009. Veteran leaders such as Keith Brooking and Lawyer Milloy will not be returning.

Mike Peterson has come over from Jacksonville and will likely fill Brooking's role as one of the outside linebackers. Curtis Lofton will likely stay at middle linebacker and continue to develop his role as the vocal leader of the defense.

The Falcons also lose defensive tackle Grady Jackson but replace him with rookie first-round pick Peria Jerry from Ole Miss.

Jerry and Babineaux will plug the middle, while a hopefully healthy John Abraham rushes the passes and stuffs the outside counters and screens.

Jamaal Anderson has disappointed since his first-round selection and will likely be challenged for the other starting defensive end position by Kevin Biermann and Chauncey Davis.

The secondary is a major area of concern for the Falcons. It isn't as much failure as it is the unknown. William Moore was selected in the draft from Missouri to hopefully take Lawyer Milloy's position. He will be competing with Thomas DeCloud.

The one definite for Atlanta is that Chris Houston will be one of the starting cornerbacks. The question is, who will be the other?

Brent Grimes, Chevis Jackson, Von Hutchins, and David Irons are the other cornerbacks that will likely take turns competing for that position throughout mini camp.

Von Hutchins, if he is healthy, should be the front runner for that position. Chevis Jackson and Brent Grimes are smaller in height and would be better suited as nickel cornerbacks, rather than lining up on oppenents' outside receivers.

Again, though, that is just my opinion. Nothing has been confirmed yet.

The Falcons have a tough road ahead of them, and they will be competing in one of the toughest divisions in the National Football League.

It will be very exciting for Falcons fans and the rest of the NFL viewing world to see how everything plays itself out.