Dave Choate takes your Falcons questions.
It's mailbag time! I reached into my big ol' burlap sack full of letters and came up with all of the ones I'm about to answer. Get your reading glasses out and follow along.
--Rise Up Reader
I may have answered this one before, so I apologize if I'm repeating myself. The Falcons have made it clear from this offseason's moves that they don't love their depth at cornerback, but they appear to have tons of faith in their young starters. Alford will get every opportunity to start, and while I can't tell you with 100% confidence that he'll be reliable, there are plenty of reasons to believe he will be.
Alford possesses ideal speed, athleticism and aggressiveness for corner, he'll have some of the pressure taken off him because Desmond Trufant is working alongside him and the Falcons are invested in his success. Unless he falters early and falters badly, he should start the whole season, and I'm willing to bet he'll be a useful player, at minimum.
If Davis misses enough time for his roster spot to be in danger, or at least his job, there are only a handful of possible candidates here.
The first and most obvious is Darius Johnson. Many believe Johnson offers more as a receiver, and he showed better separation than Davis in his rookie season. DJ has above average hands but lacks breakaway speed, is really more of a possession receiver over the long haul and didn't have Davis's special teams value when he started out, but maybe a year's worth of growth has done him some favors in that regard.
Courtney Roby could seize his job, too. Roby's a noted special teamer who can catch the occasional pass, which fits Davis's role to a T. Roby's over 30, though, and may just be a camp body.
The third possibility is a free agent signing that comes down the line. If the Falcons want to replace Davis and don't see a good option on the roster, don't rule this out.
we are still shopping around for vet d players and could use a pass catcher of some sort. Who do you see coming in out of all the vets floating around out there.
Tough question, because when teams start cutting, my answer is likely to change immediately. Right now, though, given the weaknesses in the team's pass rush, I'd be interested in checking out Everette Brown.
If Brown doesn't jump off the page to you, that's because he's been somewhat of a bust up to this point, with seven sacks in four season. He's still just 26, however, and I do believe he has the natural talent necessary to make him a useful rotational piece for a defense that's willing to work hard to develop those skills. I'd like to see the Falcons use some of their remaining cap space to bring Brown in on a prove-it deal, adding another option for them that could, if everything breaks right, blossom into a player. I recognize that's unlikely, but I'm more about upside than spackling holes right now.
Should we expect a more balanced attack this year, or is Matty still going to have to put the team on his back?
Last year, the Falcons dialed up 659 passing plays and ran the ball 321 times, meaning it was a tick over a 2:1 pass to run ratio. I don't expect that ratio to flatten out much, simply because the Falcons can sling it to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, but they appear to lack those kinds of options on the ground with Steven Jackson aging and Devonta Freeman just joining up as a rookie.
I think you'll see about 350-375 carries and 550-600 passing plays, all told, so the ratio will barely flatten at all. This is still a passing team first and foremost.
and can therefore cast a spell of invincibility on 10 Falcons players thus guaranteeing their health for the entirety of the 2014 season. Who would be the remaining 8 choices after the 2 gimmes?
1. Matt Ryan
2. Julio Jones
I feel you should know that I prefer the term warlock, given my swarthy nature.
If you're allowing me to cast this on ten players, I'm going with these ones, in no particular order.
3) Roddy White
4) Jake Matthews
5) Jon Asamoah
6) Paul Soliai
7) Jonathan Massaquoi
8) Desmond Trufant
9) William Moore
10) Robert Alford
Why? Roddy's still integral to the offense, Matthews and Asamoah are new and likely effective additions to the line, Soliai is the only true 3-4 nose tackle on the roster, Massaquoi is the early favorite for best pass rusher on the roster, Trufant and Alford are critically important young cornerbacks and Willy Mo is always ready. Your mileage may vary, and leaving off Matt Bosher might be a sin. I dunno.
The bonus question here was whether Sean Weatherspoon would have been on the list, and the answer is a resounding yes, probably in place of Asamoah or Alford.
Specifically the 4th spot behind Moore, Lowery, and Southward. Will Motta play this year? Do they believe in Ishmael? Seen anything about Kimario McFadden?
In my eyes, you're looking at two possibilities for that fourth safety spot: Kemal Ishmael or a signing.
Kimario McFadden is an interesting safety prospect, but I haven't heard anything that makes me believe he's going to mount a serious challenge for Ishmael, who has a year in the defense under his belt and has intriguing athleticism and tackling ability, even if I have my doubts he'll be anything more than a backup. I very, very much doubt Motta plays this season, so a stint on injured reserve might be in the cards here. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I don't feel good about him.
So again, Ishmael or a signing, and Ishmael can sew up a spot by having a strong camp and early preseason. If the Falcons see him faltering or simply don't think his skills are going to develop, look for a veteran like Chris Crocker or Eric Frampton as the last safety off the bench. If he can hack it, I think we'd all prefer Ishmael.
Somebody we have or find some veteran?
The Falcons clearly aren't ruling out signing another veteran linebacker, so don't rule anything out. Whoever they sign is likely to be depth, however, which means his replacement is already on the roster.
Presuming 'Spoon was ticketed for inside duties in the 3-4 and would sometimes kick outside in three linebacker sets, I'm guessing Joplo Bartu or Prince Shembo are the primary competition. Bartu can play either and appears to have made strides this offseason, though it's a little early to say that with real confidence, so he's my favorite right now. If Shembo develops rapidly, however, he may have the most talent of anyone currently competing at ILB, which could give him a shot at the starting job.
Always seems like we move the ball with ease between the 20s whether it’s with our starters or reserves like last year. But as much as I love Matt Bryant, we give him way too much work. Can we look forward to scoring more touchdowns when we should be scoring touchdowns?
This is a question that vexes many of our top scientists.
Taking Tony Gonzalez out of the offense would seem to hurt the offense, while a healthy Steven Jackson would seem to help it. Adding two upgrades along the offensive line would also help, and having a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White should go a long way. Of course, the Falcons had a healthy Jones and White, plus Gonzalez, from 2010 to 2012 and still scuffled to get into the end zone at times. That means the reason for optimism would fall on a more aggressive gameplan, a better ground attack and Levine Toilolo.
Don't sleep on Toilolo, as so many are doing. He may finish the year with pedestrian pass catching numbers, but if he makes strides, his size makes him downright frightening in the red zone. A 6'8" tight end with even decent hops can get above a 6' cornerback nearly every time, and the Falcons should seek to exploit that. It can only help.
Appreciate your comments and thoughts!