The Atlanta Falcons Are Looking for Big Things in Small Packages

Kimberley Nash@sambrooklynSenior Writer IMarch 13, 2009

The following quote is from Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff on free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft:

"I would suggest now our focus is not to be a major player in free agency but to focus on this process here and try to get young, energetic, fiery football players so we can continue to build youth on our team and head in the right direction."

What did he just say? Not a major player? Build? Does that mean rebuild?

The Falcons were 11-5 last season and I want an NFC Championship now! I don't want to rebuild the focus on youth. This guy has got to be nuts.

It seems that a lot of Falcons fans are wondering what is up with this Dimitroff guy. He's not signing the flashy players like an Albert Haynesworth or a Leigh Bodden. He seems to be quite content with signing guys like former Jaguars linebacker Mike Peterson and veteran center Brett Romberg.

If you are a casual fan of the Falcons, you have to be thinking, "Huh?โ€ I thought last season was a harbinger of good things to come. As far as fans are concerned, we have had enough time to rebuild and bring our franchise to a better level of winning consistently.

The Falcons don't need any more years of rebuilding.

However, I have to tell you, this guy seems to know what he is doing. Last year, we drafted 11 players. The biggest of which was Matt Ryan, our very own Rookie of the Year.

It seems like a great decision right now, but at the time, most thought it was a better decision to go with defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. He was the safer pick and had the better shot at being successful for the franchise in the long run.

Instead, the team chose Matt Ryan and that turned out to be just the medicine we needed to get the taste of Michael Vick, Bobby Petrino, and a record of 4-12 out of our mouths.

The Falcons also got rid of the talented, but obvious dead weight, DeAngelo Hall. As productive as he was for the team, having compiled 228 tackles and 17 interceptions in his four years there, he was becoming a bit of a cancer. He needed to be let go.

They didn't stop there either, releasing tight end Alge Crumpler, defensive tackle Rod Coleman, and left tackle Wayne Gandy.

I personally thought Dimitroff was in over his head. No way should he have let go of such important pieces. However, Dimitroff had a plan.

He completed a masterful draft, acquiring most of his talent beyond the first round.

Linebacker Curtis Lofton (94 tackles and one sack), cornerback Chevis Jackson (31 tackles and one pick), wide receiver Harry Douglas (23 receptions for 320 yards), linebacker Kroy Biermann (21 tackles and two sacks), and left tackle Sam Baker were all key contributors to the Falconsโ€™ game plan last season.

So, he appears to have a pretty good idea of what he wants to do here.

Was I impressed with the signings of Brett Romberg and Mike Peterson? No. Not at first. I didn't feel Peterson was a marked improvement over Michael Boley, but I was encouraged by the fact that he has played for head coach Mike Smith before.

I mean, let's face it. Even if the team had kept Boley, production at the same position would not necessarily have been guaranteed. Boley fits better with the New York Giants than the Falcons.

Plus, I'm willing to look at Peterson as a stopgap until the Falcons have further opportunities to draft and sign the younger, faster players Dimitroff covets. If nothing else, Peterson provides versatility and veteran leadership to that linebacking corps; something that became void with the departure of Keith Brooking to Dallas.

As for the Romberg signing, it is clear the Falcons need depth on the offensive line. Romberg worked with both Smith and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau in Jacksonville during his stint there from 2003-2005.

That means the learning curve should be a short one, as he should have a good idea what both coaches expect.

Add to that his ability to play at either center or guard and you again have a player who can plug and play where needed.

Depth, depth, depth. That is key.

Further, Romberg brings consistency to the line for both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner as he has experience blocking for big-time rushers (he's played with both Steven Jackson and Fred Taylor), and he will play an important part in keeping the line fresh and healthy.

The Falcons still need to solidify their defensive line. As of now, the competition is open between the recently re-signed Chauncey Davis and former first-rounder Jamaal Anderson for the defensive end spot.

Davis performed very well last season in limited play (getting 38 tackles and four sacks), and he's my pick to win the starting job over Anderson next season if he continues to perform as expected.

It would be nice to pick up a tight end in the draft, and I think Dimitroff has his eyes on Missouri's Chase Coffman. He's got great pass-catching abilities and he runs routes exceptionally well.

The knock on Coffman is that he doesn't seem to be adept at blocking and at 6'6โ€, 244 lbs., he is built more like a receiver than an end. However, he has the toughness and the coachability Dimitroff likes. That may trump any deficiencies in his play for the time being.

Whomever the Falcons draft at that position will be a boon for Michael Turner as it will take away some of those carries without putting too much on Jerious Norwood. It will also allow the team to have another set of hands on the offense that can stretch out those opposing defenses even more.

Another big need is at safety. The loss of Lawyer Milloy opened a huge hole in the secondary and it needs to be filled quickly. The smart money seems to be on Louis Delmas out of Western Michigan. He's fast, just as fast if not faster than most corners, and he has the ability to really lay out a wide receiver.

He's a little small for a safety, built a bit too slender for my taste, but that's nothing that can't be remedied with a little more time in the weight room.

The Falcons have needs and no one is more aware of them than Dimitroff. His scouting has been deliberate and his signings purposeful. You have to respect that as a Falcons fan because for a time, the team seemed to throw as much money at players as possible without any results to show for the cost.

Come April 25, I expect to see Dimitroff slice through the draft with precision and find the guys that will continue to make this Falcons team as balanced and consistent as possible.

The hunt is truly on and I am happy to be along for the ride.


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