I have a lot of respect for John Clayton. Not only is he a knowledgable and intelligent football fan, but he also looks like he'd be regularly handing over his wallet to all the other football writers at ESPN. So I take a little notice when he says as politely as he can that next year's Falcons are a sinking ship. He points out the depressing reality of our undersized (but I would still argue quite talented) offensive line, an aging defense, and the picture of Mike Vick dropping the ball like a baby on fire. Though he takes a smart tack and refuses to quantify how many wins and losses this means, it's clear that he thinks the Falcons are due for a further drop off.
I haven't really commented on this yet, I know. It's pretty clear that Petrino was the Falcons' big move this offseason, barring a draft day trade or some excellent picks. I don't want to run anybody over with the pessimism train, but it's not really likely this team does anything more than 9-7 without some significant improvements at QB, WR, and the secondary. That also assumes a equal level of competency next year at HB, OL, and the DL, and that also seems pretty unlikely. We Falcons fans should probably be ready for the painful reality of a re-building year as Petrino gets his feet under him and puts his system in place. Does that mean there's no way we can bounce back and wreck up the joint? Naw. Stranger things have happened than a talented but inconsistent team putting it together. But if that talent level drops at all, we're probably in big trouble.