Where Win Now Meets The Falcons Youth Movement

FLOWERY BRANCH GA - JULY 30: Brian Finneran #86 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during opening day of training camp on July 30 2010 at the Falcons Training Complex in Flowery Branch Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Sunday is supposed to be the day of rest. So why were there so many old people on the football field?

The Falcons have accomplished much in the last three seasons with a creamy blend of veterans and youngsters. Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff have shown a preference for drafting well and acquiring young players with upside, which means our chances of seeing washed-up former "stars" like the entire 2009 Broncos running back stable is slim to none. This is a good thing.

At some point, though, the urge to develop young talent smashes into the desire to win in the here-and-now. Chris Owens and Harry Douglas can tell you about it.

In hindsight, we've seen the signs since the beginning of the season. Douglas has done poorly everywhere he's played this season, and with Bionic Brian Finneran smoothly catching passes, it was only a matter of time before he started to cut into HD's snaps.

But it's a little jarring to see Finn in the slot for much of the game, as he was against the Buccaneers. Watching him make the most of his opportunities despite needing to be driven to the game in a Flintstones car told me something.

It was the same thing I learned from the mind-boggling sight of Brian Williams starting in the nickel, where he was in on a few plays and had one horrendously stupid penalty. I thought we had seen the last of Bwill getting serious snaps—and I stillI won't know how many he got this week until orang3b emerges from hibernation—but there he was, cheerfully pushing Chris Owens out of the nickel role.

The lesson is this: The Falcons are done being happy to be out there. They're doing playing young guys for the sake of getting them experience. Chris Owens and Harry Douglas are getting fewer snaps and spending more time riding the pine because they're not playing well. Period.

You and I may not see eye-to-eye on whether Williams is a better bet than Owens, but it's pretty clear that the coaching staff thinks so. At 6-2 and in a dogfight for the NFC South, nobody's job is safe just because they've been in Atlanta for a while or have loads of potential. What matters now is results and the big W.

I could get used to that.

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