When Martrez Milner went down like a lead pirate ship last year, I reacted with a sad face and wished him well until next season. Now that Milneraire is ready to get back onto the field, it seems appropriate to revisit his likely role for the the upcoming season, and see just where he fits in on this Falcons squad.
Even with Alge Crumpler's struggles last season, I felt okay about losing Milner because we had an elite--or at least formerly elite--pass catching tight end to handle things. This season, the tight end corps has become completely unrecognizable. With stout blocker Ben Hartsock and rookie blocking-inclined tight end Keith Zinger, the Falcons suddenly have exactly one guy on the roster capable of putting the ball under lock and key. As Milner's a second year player who has given us only a tiny glimpse of his talent, this is a wee bit alarming.
Before you say it, yes, I know that blocking is going to be the primary concern for Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey in the new system. Milner probably won't have the opportunity to catch any more than 30 to 40 balls no matter how well he does during training camp. Still, with a receiving corps that's at best going to be a little above average this year, it pays to have a big guy who can save you on shallow slants and hooks. The team has to hope that Milner can be the complete tight end McKay envisioned when he selected him out of Georgia, because even if his pass catching skills are up to snuff he'll need to block to stay around.
Concerns aside, though, it's good that Milner's back and healthy. We need all the able-bodied potential we can get.