This article is the follow-up to the original article written May of last year.
The Atlanta Falcons season has come to an end and however bitterly disappointing the loss may be to the fanbase, there are plenty of positives.
The Falcons are building something special and although they have some questions to answer, they are still in great shape for success.
With the good, there is bad however, in that the defense does not look ready for championship caliber play at the moment.
Their problems defensively were quite apparent against the potent Packer offense, allowing consecutive drives of 81, 92 and 80 yards for touchdowns in the first half. And much like last year, failing to get off the field on third down and simply couldn't stop Rodgers or the Packer receivers.
The defense would allow the Packers to convert a third and seven on the first drive, taking a penalty on the second drive negating a sack and giving up the third and three on the final drive.
The Falcons tried to buy their success this year, and while it's only one year, it does seem to be a lesson of supply and demand in NFL free agency. The large free agent splash this year of course was Dunta Robinson, a labeled shutdown corner.
For the amount of money he signed for the comparisons to Nate Clements is both shocking and disappointing.
The free agency class the year that Clements was available was thin and Clements, like Robinson was the cream of the crop as far as cornerbacks went. Patrick Surtain, Allen and Charles Woodson was still a franchise tagged Oakland Raider who were quite better than Clements turned out to be for the duration of their stay with their new teams.
You cannot blame the front office for going into win now mode, as evidenced by Robinson's albatross $57 million contract.
But the comparisons to Nate Clements are just too easy when you sit back and survey the reality of it all. While Clements' contract is a eight-year, $80 million whale, Robinson's is no guppy either.
You can make the argument, however, that it is not all directly Dunta Robinson's fault, but he did not make the plays that he should have for that price.
This is a lesson many NFL teams have learned while chasing their supposed version of Deion Sanders high-stepping his way to their team's championship.
Mike Shanahan, the then Broncos head coach traded Clinton Portis to Washington in 2003 for Champ Bailey after watching Deion win it all with the 49ers. With aspirations of being the key to unlock the puzzle that was Peyton Manning, this was a bold move indeed.
Instead, Manning would torch the Broncos throwing for 458 yards and four touchdowns hanging 49 points on the Bronco defense.
History repeating itself? That would be too easy right?
Teams came right out of the gate and attacked Robinson as he was among the leaders in cornerback targets from Weeks 1-4. Robinson did enjoy a measure of success despite being targeted, but seemed to falter later in the season. He dropped quite a few interceptions, and I personally do not see the ball skills he was so touted to have.
Robinson would tally 55 solo tackles, with 52 assists and did have three quarterback sacks when sent on the blitz. He did not have a single interception until Week 17 versus the Carolina Panthers and dropped several other easy picks.
Clements would tally 82 tackles with three forced fumbles and three interceptions, one of those very familiar to Falcon fans.
Clements did give up more touchdowns than Robinson, so the direct comparison cannot be fair; in fact, Robinson had been very solid some games but was not spectacular.
While Robinson had a quiet year, you can argue that returning from the knee injury may still be a process, and though he played better late in the season, he failed to make a impact in any crucial situations.
Robinson might turn it around next year, but it would be fair to say most fans would like it sooner than later.
Much like Clements tail heavy contract, Robinson's contract also balloons toward the end its term. You can argue that the contract will be restructured at one point, but it's not chump change for his performance.
His base salary is $5 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011, $6 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, $9 million in 2014 and $9.5 million in 2015.
Considering the salary breakdown and the fact that this was his first year in the system, you can also say he'll get better, as will the Falcon defense.
But who knows if that defense will remain in place?
Despite Mike Smith and the front office's stance of continuity and personnel longevity questions should be raised about Van Gorder and the playcalling.
The 2011 NFL season, when it does start, should give us a better clue as to who Robinson can really be on the Falcon defense.
Next year's cornerback class is quite deep and given Thomas Dmitroff's drafting history, you can't help but think there will be a corner taken come the 2011 NFL Draft.
Although a Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara may not be feasible, there are plenty of DB's available with terrific skill.
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