June 6, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) warms up on the field during organized team activities at the Falcons training facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
Last week’s Chris Hope signing was not particularly surprising. The Falcons need some depth at safety, and Hope brings a veteran presence, and based on the information available, an excellent attitude and work ethic to the team. Hope also brings a belief that the Falcons have the necessary pieces in place to win a Super Bowl.
As would be expected, Hope’s statements on the subject were met with wild glee from many Falcons fans, myself included, and scorn and disdain from pretty much everyone else. Is the statement valid? It could happen, right? Anyway, isn’t the perpetual hope of winning it all a big part of the allure of NFL fan devotion? Let’s consider the possibilities after the jump.
One of the primary objections to the idea that the Falcons could go all the way this year is the fact that the team features fundamentally the same personnel as last year, which ended poorly in terms of the postseason. The fact is, the players who remain on the roster are extremely talented, and the coaching staff changes put the Falcons in a good position to make necessary progress. With Dirk Koetter committed to schemes that are not entirely predictable on every single down, and Pat Hill preparing the offensive line to adequately protect him, Matt Ryan can, and should, excel this season. From what I’m hearing, Mike Smith plans to field a truly balanced offense. With one of the best RBs in the league in Michael Turner, Jason Snelling’s reliability, and the versatility of JacQuizz Rodgers, our rushing attack has great potential. Between Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez alone, the sheer volume of receiving weapons at Koetter’s disposal is overwhelming. There is no reason that the Falcons offense should not be extraordinary in 2012.
Mike Nolan will provide a defensive scheme tailored to the talents and abilities of his players, and he has a ton of talent to work with on that side of the ball. The defense was ineffective last season in a number of ways, most notably in Brian Van Gorder's dogged determination to maintain soft zone coverage when it didn’t make any sense. Much-maligned CB Dunta Robinson, who excelled in man coverage in Houston and fell down a lot in zone coverage during his time thus far with the Falcons, will likely be put in a position to play bump and run. An effective Robinson coupled with notable ballhawks Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel equals a scary defensive backfield. Also, with Nolan’s pass rush approach being fairly creative, we should see a defense that keeps opposing QBs off balance.
For what it’s worth, Chris Hope is not the only player who believes the Falcons have what it takes to win a Super Bowl this season. Tony Gonzalez thinks so, too. He hasn’t said this publicly that I’m aware of, but signing a one year contract with the Falcons in the twilight of his career speaks volumes. Gonzalez wants a ring. If he didn’t believe the Falcons could get it done, he would have chosen differently.
Obviously, t’s too early to make any bold, sweeping statements about the Falcons’ ability to bring home a Lombardi trophy this season--although that did not stop the self-proclaimed "experts" at ESPN from declaring that the Falcons will not even make the playoffs in 2012. Theoretically, the Falcons had sufficient talent to go all the way in 2010 and 2011, and they simply did not execute. The team has made some smart personnel moves over the course of this offseason, moves that should complement the talent they retained on the roster. The coaching staff seems to have a good feel for getting the best results from the talent they have to work with this season. Realistically, winning a playoff game would be a huge step forward for this team. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I insist the Falcons do have talent in place that can get that done this season.