Sunday, March 02, 2008

Team Needs: Atlanta Falcons

1. Quarterback
The Falcons made a good move in resigning Chris Redman, who was their best quarterback last season, to a two-year deal. And they may have cleared enough cap space with their many off-season cuts to keep Joey Harrington and his $2.5 million salary. But they need to get their future starter, which they should be able to do in the draft.

2. Offensive Tackle
Devastated by injuries (they started four different left tackles last season), Atlanta's offensive line was one of the worst. The unit ranked dead last in Adjusted Line Yards and finished in the bottom third of the leauge (23rd) in Adjusted Sack Rate. Undersized tackle Todd Weiner is 32 and coming off of a knee injury, but he can play either side and should be able to hold down one of the starting jobs. The other is up in the air, with Quinn Ojinnaka, D'Anthony Batiste, and a host of others battling for spots on the team.

3. Defensive Tackle
Former All-Pro, Rod Coleman was a necessary cap cut, but without him the Falcons are especially thin on talent up front. Sixth-rounder Trey Lewis was a pleasant surprise as a space eater inside and could be a solid two-down player. 2005 third-rounder Jonathan Babineaux has been inconsistent, but might be better off subbing in for Lewis on passing downs. Montavious Stanley and Jesse Mahelona are already journeymen after two seasons in the league.

4. Middle Linebacker
32-year-old Keith Brooking is ill-suited to be the starting middle linebacker again. He's scheduled to make $5 million in 2008 and is among the next in the cap-cut line.

5. Wide Receiver
2005 first-rounder Roddy White finally started to reach the potential he showed that made him a high draft pick, which is especially good because 2004 first-rounder Michael Jenkins continues to underwhelm. Joe Horn was another in a long line of disappointing free agent signings and he's not likely to be back.

6. Tight End
Alge Crumpler was always a little overrated, and now that he's battling knee problems that look like they might be a chronic issue, it was a wise decision to err on the side of adding cap space. 2007 fourth-rounder Martrez Milner is a decent blocking back who finished the season on IR and could be an asset in two tight end sets, but the Falcons need to add a new number one here.

7. Guard
Tyson Clabo, who filled in at right tackle last season, has the inside track for the right guard spot, while left guard Justin Blalock, Atlanta's second round pick last year, will have to show improvement to hold down his starting job (although, with so many other holes to be filled, the job could be his by default).

8. Defensive End
The often injured John Abraham started all sixteen games for only the second time in his eight-year career, recording 10 of Atlanta's 25 sacks. 2007 first-rounder Jamaal Anderson was a major disappointment, failing to deliver a single sack. Having just turned 22, Anderson obviously still has upside; a year in an NFL strength and conditioning program should go a long way toward improving his game, as long as he has the drive. While their starters at end are set, the Falcons need to add depth late in the draft.

9. Strong Safety
Even if Lawyer Milloy is retained for the 2008 season, it will be the 34-year-old strong safety's last year in Atlanta and probably the league. Sixth-rounder Darren Stone is the backup who could be given a chance to start if Milloy's cut.

10. Kicker
Morten Anderson will turn 48 this summer. He's my favorite all-time kicker, but I can't imagine he's going to reach his goal of kicking in the NFL when he's 50. Last season had to be the end of the road for him.

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