Here we go, Bird fans.
The offseason of truth is upon us once again. It is the pending question that haunts each Falcon fan after they mend from the hangover of a winning season.
"Will we finally get back to back?"
For those of you who aren't in the minority of people who actually follow Falcon football religiously, it is true; the Falcons have never in their history had back to back winning seasons.
I can tell you right now, you cannot find a better football loving community than the one here in the Atlanta area. The Falcons have always taken a back seat to the Georgia and Georgia Tech football teams, but people fail to realize that we football fans here in Atlanta have been craving a winning tradition to proudly embrace for years!
So we get very critical when it comes to what the team does following a winning season.
In 2005, the team seemingly had made the right moves following an NFC championship appearance. Falcon football was at its highest ever. What did we do? We went 8-8. 8-8 does not count as a winning season. Ouch!
Are we cursed? The team had tons of talent, but they managed to go from a 6-2 start to a 2-6 finish without any major injuries to place blame.
How confident can we be that it's finally going to happen? We have a second year coach and a second year quarterback, and we just cleaned house on defense, losing veterans like Lawyer Milloy, Keith Brooking, and Dominique Foxworth. Is this team going to be anything like it was last year?
I truly believe it will be just as good, if not better. The schedule is going to be tough, and our record could be anywhere from 9-7 to 13-3, but I think this team is going to be a "good" team.
The offense looks picture perfect on paper, returning the rookie of the year in Matt Ryan, who looked like a seasoned veteran in his first year in the league.
Roddy White has developed into the best "play-the-ball-in-the-air" receiver in the NFL besides Larry Fitzgerald, and Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood creates one of the most dynamic tailback tandems out there.
The offensive line, which allowed 47 sacks in 2007, allowed just 17 in 2008. The offense overall last year was amazingly efficient and fun to watch. And now, the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez.
Pending Matt Ryan breaking his fibula or getting arrested for dog fighting, the Falcons will be an unstoppable force next year.
But, will the defense stop anyone?
The defense last year was aggressive and opportunistic. Some games they looked like the best defense in the NFL, flying to the ball and forcing turnovers. However, the defense was somewhat inconsistent and only finished 24th in the league in overall defensive statistics.
And they lost Milloy, Brooking, Foxworth, Boley, and Grady Jackson. This defense is going to be completely different.
Drafting Peria Jerry was a fantastic move. I believe a great defense starts on the defensive line. Many people thought the Falcons were way too weak at corner or safety, but no secondary can be good without pass rush and run stoppage.
The second round pick, William Moore, is a so-so one. Moore went from being the highest regarded defensive back in college football to having a rough senior season and falling on draft boards. Moore has great size and physical tools, but he will need to be coached up if he is going to be able to start early and fill the hole left by Milloy.
I still think we could sign a veteran corner though. Chris Houston is now the No. 1 corner, despite getting picked on all of last year. Houston is a hit or miss kind of player. He made a ton of great plays last year, but gave up just as many bad ones.
Chevis Jackson, a second year man from LSU, will likely have to start on the other side if the team doesn't bring someone in. Jackson made some plays last year but as a nickel back.
If Atlanta's secondary can be the bend but don't break unit it was last year with veteran leadership like Foxworth, I believe this defense will be able to improve. Mike Peterson is a physical and energetic linebacker who should erase any memories of Keith Brooking.
So far, I am very optimistic with the Falcons, but someone better let Mike Smith and Matt Ryan know just how important it would be not only to have back to back winning seasons for the first time ever, but also to take this team to the next level and give this football-thirsty town something to finally be proud of.
Also, the Falcons are going to dig deep for some winning inspiration this season. Word is the Dirty Birds will drop their black alternate jerseys for this season only to make room for throwback uniforms.
That's right, the Red lids are coming back! (The NFL does not allow a team to have two alternate jerseys, and throwbacks count. Therefore, black jerseys are going in the closet for a season).