TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Tight end Tony Gonzalez #88 (left) of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates a touchdown catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers September 25, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Mike Smith's Monday press conference was about the same as it ever is, with one notable exception.
Smith expressed befuddlement at the team's performance. He acknowledged the need to improve significantly. He threw a bone to Todd McClure, praising him in spite of his botched snap during the Buccaneers game. Smitty also busted out the obvious "we did some things well and other things poorly," as you can see here.
What was different and a little ominous for those players tuning in at home was Smith's assertion that "there's competition at all spots." There's always the chance that it's just bluster and we're going to see exactly the same 22 starters out there on offense and defense. Given the performance we all just watched, though, I'm not so sure that's true.
You don't have to be some sort of levitating super genius to figure out something's wrong in Offensivelinetown. Between the penalties, the tiny screw ups and a complete lack of what you and I might refer to longingly as blocking, the Falcons haven't failed at protection so thoroughly since 2007. Couple that with Michael Turner's dismal performance and you have what writers the world over like to call the last straw.
So the question really isn't will they? The question is whether any of the backups on the offensive line can play well enough in practice this week to seize a starting job, however temporarily. That's an open-ended question for a few reasons:
- Will Svitek is not better than Sam Baker. Sorry, we've been down this road before.
- Justin Blalock has been the team's best lineman. Period.
- Joe Hawley is not beating out Todd McClure. The cagey veteran would maul Mike Smith like a bear if he tried to replace him.
- Garrett Reynolds would seem to be the most vulnerable, but Mike Johnson has been declared inactive in all three games thus far this season. Something tells me he's not going to get much of a shot.
- Will Svitek is not better than Tyson Clabo. I doubt the Falcons bring up anybody off the practice squad, either.
If there's any turnover at other positions, it's probably minimal. Thomas DeCoud seems to have reaffirmed his hold on the starting free safety job, and despite some early struggles Ray Edwards isn't going to ride the pine all game in favor of Kroy Biermann. The starters, for better or for worse, are locked in.
So ultimately, while it would be unfair of me to impugn Smith's honesty, you're probably going to see the same lineup again against the Seahawks. Let's hope they raise their collective game.