QB Ryan has the Falcons' Offense flying high but the D keeps the team grounded.

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Rookie QB Matt Ryan had a storybook season last year. He stepped into a team that desperately needed leadership and provided it. He seems to have all the physical and mental traits that a team needs to be more than effective offensively. The one area of development is the ability to know what the D is doing and anticipate it. That will come with experience. But right now he is good enough to win the NFC South again this year. He had better stay healthy because there is nothing of NFL quality behind him.  He is a fantasy star.

RB Michael Turner has become a force in the running game. He answered any questions about his ability to start last season gaining over 1,700 yards. He has power and speed which is a combination in short supply around the league. Jerious Norwood is a solid starting quality back and young Thomas Brown is green and needs snaps to develop. FB Ovie Mughelli is a force and is not too far from pro bowl performance.

WR Roddy White and Michael Jenkins looked a great deal better with Ryan at QB. Funny how that works. White is already at all pro level and Jenkins is getting there. Brian Finneran is the only vet talent on the bench after the season ending injury to Harry Douglas. Because both Turner and Norwood are adequate receivers out of the backfield, that should be enough given their new TE. The future Hall of Fame Tony Gonzalez will become Ryan’s new safety valve. Gonzalez isn’t as fast as he was once but he is still among the most reliable TEs in the league. The team will use 2 TEs at times and Ben Hartsock is the blocking half of the duo.

The O line is mostly non-brand name guys but are adequate and got some additional depth in 09. The line is transitioning from lighter quicker linemen to big run blocking guys that move the pile. LT Sam Baker, LG Justin Blalock, C Todd McClure, RG Harvey Dahl, RT Tyson Clabo figure to be the starters with Brett Romberg, Jeremy Newberry and Will Svitek providing starting experience in the past. The young but injury prone C/G Ben Wilkerson has talent but has not been able to stay healthy enough to win a starting job.

The D line is a weak point of the team. RDE John Abraham is the leader and provides the most pass rush but has had injury problems over the last few years. The other 3 starting spots are question marks. Pressure is on both rookie DT Peria Jerry and 07 first round pick E Jamaal Anderson. They must be effective if the team is to get very far in the playoffs. Up to now Anderson has been a disappointment. T Jonathan Babineaux shows flashes of being a quality starter but is inconsistent. There is not much quality depth behind them.

The linebacker group has been totally reworked. MB Curtis Lofton is the only holdover. WB Michael Peterson was signed from Jacksonville and should be an improvement. SB Stephen Nicholas has the inside track to the starting spot. Coy Wire provides about the only experience on the bench.

FS Erik Coleman is the only sure thing in the D backfield. He is solid but not special. S Thomas DeCoud and one of my sleeper picks rookie William Moore from Missouri will battle for the SS spot. Brent Grimes and Chris Owens will battle for the CB spot opposite Chris Houston. Houston improved last year but needs to keep developing.

OVERALL: The team will need to play keep away by continuing to run the ball to win. The D as a whole is the weaker side of the team. The Falcons will have to fend off the Saints to win the division but will not advance in the playoffs unless the D comes around. The D won’t and the Falcons will be one and done again.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Draft,Falcons,Jaguars,Fantasy Football,Ryan,Turner,Norwood,White House,Jenkins,Blalock,Clabo,Newberry,Abraham,Anderson,Jerry,Lofton,Coleman,Houston


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QB Ryan has the Falcons' Offense flying high but the D keeps the team grounded. by

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