The Atlanta Falcons Bring a High-Flying Offense into 2009
The Atlanta Falcons find themselves in a precarious position this season, one that they are neither used to nor familiar with—they have a ton of offense.
Matt Ryan, the rookie phenom, will look to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump this season and he will have plenty of toys at his disposal to do so.
First is Michael Turner. He ran wild last season to the tune of 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is the centerpiece of that offense—don't let anyone tell you differently.
Falcons offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, is a disciple of the school of smash-mouth football and Turner is the quintessential power runner who can make the one-cut needed before bruising his way for some serious yards.
Last year, Turner led the league in broken tackles (44) and showed how hard it can be to bring down 244 lbs of solid freight as it makes its way to the end zone.
He was a monster, no doubt, and if he can maintain his health—and the Falcons can lessen that carry total (376) by about 5-8 per game—he is good for at least 1,300 yards and 8-10 touchdowns this season.
His backup is a starter in his own right—Jerious Norwood.
Norwood is, dare we say, the Leon Washington of the NFC South; he does it all. He plays special teams, he acts as a receiving option out of the backfield, and he can run it for days.
He is the perfect change-of-pace back to the big, bruising, Turner because he has blazing speed and offers another dimension to the running game by being a reliable receiver.
Where less carries could set Turner up for even better production down the stretch, more carries puts Norwood in line for, possibly, his first 1,000-yard season as a rusher.
Add to that the fact that he will, likely, be auditioning for free agency. It's no secret that he can and should be starting for a team in the NFL—he's better than a lot of other backs with more featured roles.
However, the run game isn't the only strength this season, the Birds also have some emerging talents at the receiving position.
Roddy White has already shown what he can do, all he did last year was grab 88 balls for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns.
His talents have been well-documented at this point and he is penciled into the brain of Ryan as the go-to guy on the field.
Beyond him there is Michael Jenkins—he's decent, but unless you are sleeping under a rock, you have to be aware that Harry Douglas is quickly becoming an underrated talent on this team.
Douglas played limited ball last year, but he will likely be the biggest beneficiary of the Tony Gonzalez trade that the Falcons made this off-season.
Douglas is fast, elusive, and has the skills to get down the field in a hurry. He will be overlooked by a lot of teams who will likely be focusing on Turner, White, Norwood, and Gonzalez.
That will lead to some big plays by the second-year man out of Louisville.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see him rack up close to 600 yards with 3-5 scores this season.
Lastly, there is Tony Gonzalez, the ageless wonder will be the upgrade at tight end that the Birds have missed since the release of Alge Crumpler.
Gonzalez brings not only a tremendous skill-set as a receiver, but he is also excellent in pass/run protection and offers Ryan the safety net he needs when all other options fail.
Add to that Gonzalez's leadership and veteran savvy and the Atlanta offense is sitting pretty in 2009.
It's hard not to be excited about the Atlanta Falcons this season, despite the lingering questions on the defensive side of the ball, they look like a force to be reckoned with this year and beyond.
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