The mailbag makes its triumphant return today, with questions that are worth pondering as we try to pass the interminable month ahead. Don't worry, friends, football is not gone forever.
I received a lot of questions for this week's edition, so I apologize if I didn't get to all your questions. As you might expect for this juncture of the year, most fans are looking ahead with their questions, specifically to roster battles and rookie performances.
Let's get down to it.
I'll start my answer by noting that if you're not seeing direct criticism of Mike Smith and the coaching staff for the team's failures, you clearly aren't on The Falcoholic often enough. Those failings, along with overly conservative play calling, leaning too heavily on veterans and overall lack of adjustments tend to dominate criticism of the team. In other words, I think they get their fair share of that criticism.
If the Falcons want to improve the third quarter offense, the key is going to be to stay aggressive to some extent. You don't want this team crossing over fully into short passes and runs when they have, say, a ten point lead, given how poorly that's gone in the past. More than that, though, an effective ground game solves a lot of problems by allowing you to run with a lead, run to get back into a close game and set up the pass.
More balance, more aggression, in short.
the chance we sign someone else this offseason, and your prediction at which position
I'd put the chances of another signing before the season opens at 99%. Whether by injury, roster cuts for struggling players or just a worthwhile player becoming available, I think there's virtually no chance you'll see the Falcons stand pat between now and September.
The position is tougher to call. The Falcons could pursue a veteran tight end if they have any concern about Levine Toilolo's readiness or just the Mickey Shuler/Jacob Pedersen fight for the third spot on the depth chart. They could sign another veteran linebacker if any of their options fall short. And certainly no one's going to complain if they bring aboard a veteran safety to provide depth if Zeke Motta is hurt and Kemal Ishmael doesn't seize the backup job behind William Moore.
Likeliest? I'd say veteran safety.
I think it's extremely unlikely, to say the least. No one needs to be more cerebral and reliable along the offensive line than the center, as Peter Konz's failings taught us a year ago. Konz is a bright guy, but he lacked the physical ability get the job done. Stone doesn't have many of those questions, possessing excellent size, agility and stoutness for a center, and that's why it's entirely fair to project him as a player to watch.
Given that the Falcons signed Hawley, that they still have some vested interest in seeing if Konz can be a useful player and that Stone is a UDFA who would have to become a leader on the line and a complete player by the time the Saints game rolled around, though, I can't see him starting. Right now, I view him as a practice squad player for 2014, and if he learns quickly, he may be able to try to wrestle the job away from Hawley in 2015. Baby steps with a UDFA, though.
Reedy's probably not making the roster. His speed and hands make him an interesting prospect to watch, but if he was going to stick over players like Drew Davis and Darius Johnson, he'd need to have stellar special teams value in his rookie season. Given that the Falcons have Devin Hester, he's more likely ticketed to the practice squad.
We've seen guys like Reedy impressing early before, so I wouldn't get too attached to him in case he falters and the Falcons don't keep him around at all. But I do think he's got a shot to go the Davis/Johnson/Kevin Cone route, hitting the practice squad in year one and then making the roster down the line.
Fun question. Right now, I've got the following:
I anticipate Moore's going to have a monster year, as you'll see in Friday's strong safety roster projection. Ryan should return to form with a healthier, arguably improved offense in front of him, though he'll miss Tony Gonzalez a great deal. Jake Matthews should be an immediate starter and thus is virtually a lock for the ROY award if he doesn't scuffle.
For the past couple of years (more so last year) fans and writer’s like yourself have talked up Kroy Biermann like he’s the next big thing. So far I haven’t seen anything mind-blowing and if I’m not mistaken he was a sixth round pick. What’s the big deal? Am I missing something?
--Gregory W. Longino
This is a question that has been coming up more frequently of late, and I think the answer has everything to do with expectations.
I've long said that I believe Kroy Biermann is a valuable piece for the defense. He can play multiple positions, he offers a little bit as a pass rusher, he's stout against the run and he can cover in a pinch, and he has considerable special teams value. You don't pass up the chance to replace someone like that with a great player, no, but when you lack those options a guy like Biermann can be mighty useful, particularly for a defense like Mike Nolan's that emphasizes multiple looks.
For many, I suspect, Biermann looks like a fifth round pick who has never panned out. If you look purely at his stat lines, there's little question you're not coming away impressed. He's only got a handful of truly great plays to his name, and it's a small handful. if you're inclined to see Biermann as a disappointment, I have to think praising someone as valuable makes you think he's being overvalued, hence why so many ask the same question Gregory does above: What's the big deal with Biermann?
Ultimately, I don't think anyone's saying Kroy Biermann is a great player. He's still a useful one, however, and it's not going to surprise me in the least if he winds up starting again.
It's gotta be Jake Matthews. I really want to see most of the rookie class at least contribute, but Matthews has been billed as a potential franchise left tackle down the line, and the Falcons were in terrible need of improving their pass protection. I hope he starts every game.
Thanks for the questions, everyone.