If there is one fear that pervades humanity, it is the fear of the unknown. We do not like what we cannot see, what we cannot touch, what we cannot quantify. It is part and parcel of what makes us human, this wariness of those things that move quietly in the dark.
It's not death or the outer limits of our universe, but the fact that the Falcons have so much inexperienced depth has caused considerable unease among fans. Who isn't a little bit worried about Dominique Franks and Chris Owens fighting for the nickel cornerback job, or the fact that the four receivers behind Roddy White have combined for something like two catches over the last six decades?
Me, for one. I go into this season with as much confidence as I have ever had in an Atlanta Falcons team, roster-related warts aside. Allow me to explain why.This is not a matter of faith. I have had faith that the Falcons would return to the Super Bowl after 1998, and that Bobby Petrino could squeeze the elite talent out of Michael Vick that we all knew was lurking there. Neither happened, and that might have been because neither were all that grounded in reality to begin with.
No, this is based on what these eyes have seen over the last three seasons. It's a front office that boldly and purposefully rebuilt, pairing approximately one big free agent signing an off-season with a plethora of young talent. It's a coaching staff that has consistently gotten blood out of a stone, turning guys like Jason Snelling and Brent Grimes who were expected to be camp bodies or practice squad candidates into contributers. And it's players who buy in wholeheartedly to a system that plays to their strengths and emphasizes the team. Grimes is, again, a great example.
In fact, Grimes is probably the best example of why I'm not fretting much this off-season. No one expected a short, small school cornerback to become a nasty cover corner with a tendency to pick off Drew Brees. But he got there by a combination of incredibly hard work and a team that was willing to nurture his talent.
The Atlanta Falcons quite simply do not put players into positions where they cannot succeed unless there are no other options. Chris Owens stepped into that heartbreaking Green Bay Packers loss because he was the best option the team could muster at that time. This season, if everyone's healthy, Owens will likely be one of the league's better fourth corners. Guys like Spencer Adkins, Lawrence Sidbury and Dominique Franks have barely played at all because the team didn't feel they were ready, but they've been kept around because their potential is so clear. This season, all three could land bigger roles.
If injuries strike, the Falcons won't stand pat if they feel they're inadequate. If the team God forbid were to lose someone like Roddy White, the team would go out and make a move immediately to acquire a receiver who could shore up the depth chart. This is a coaching staff and a front office with clear eyes and a pronounced conservative streak. It can be frustrating at times, but the end result speaks for itself. This is the best-run Falcons team of my lifetime, and it's not particularly close.
So don't worry about Franks. There are veteran cornerbacks on the scrap heap who aren't half as athletic or a third as physical, experience be damned. Don't worry about Julio Jones, either. He's a big, humble, talented dude who outstrips anybody left in free agency. And don't sweat Shann Schillinger, a guy the coaching staff is reportedly smitten with due to his tenacity and quickness. The Falcons have faith in these guys because they know them better than any of us, and they have seen their talents first-hand. I doubt Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have ever thrown spaghetti at a wall in their lives...unless Smith did it out of anger.
I'm not trying to tell you not to worry. Fans will be fans, and I know I'll find myself descending into panic at some point or another due to an injury, a bad game or where my zodiac sign is in the sky some crisp autumn night. But after three years, I think it's safe to trust all of these guys to do the right thing.
So in my usual, rambling way, I've told you why I'm not worried. Please weigh in with why you agree or disagree.