Yawning before me like a vast abyss, the off-season is a cold, dark, desolate sort of place.
I love the NFL Draft, OTAs, training camp and free agency. There's plenty to talk about during the course of the off-season, but from here until March, it's all other teams winding their ways through the playoffs and the faintest grinding of free agency's wheels and gears. It's a dead zone.
But we know these Falcons. I seriously doubt we're going to run out of things to talk about, after the way the season went and the post-season ended. So let's start the conversation right now.
This is going to inform a lot of posts here over the next several weeks, so I welcome your thoughtful thoughts. Basically, we're discussing what the Falcons have to do this off-season to improve the team.To simplify it, tell me what three positions you'd focus on if you were in Thomas Dimitroff's genius shoes for a few months. We'll turn those into posts on those needs and a look at free agents and rookies who might be able to make a difference.
After the jump, find my take.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
I expect violent disagreement from some quarters, but I firmly believe that the Falcons must improve the offense. The best way to do that is to get more weapons for Matt Ryan.
With Roddy White fighting off chronic injury issues from mid-season on, the Falcons had to lean on their other options. Michael Jenkins was solid, Brian Finneran was great situationally and Harry Douglas stepped up on rare occasions, but this wasn't a receiving corps that struck fear into anyone. Worse, Tony Gonzalez morphed into a possession threat, and his fabled ability to muscle his way into open space has apparently reached its half-life.
Coupled with Mike Mularkey's play calling, which trended toward conservative throughout the season, the Falcons ended up with a quality short passing attack that was woefully inadequate when the Falcons needed to stage a comeback. When Roddy and Jenkins were covered, the deep game basically disappeared with them.
It doesn't necessarily have to be in the first round, but the Falcons should seriously consider addressing this through the draft. They desperately need an explosive threat to pair with White, someone to take pressure off everyone else and draw coverage deep.
Of course, if they think Douglas, Kerry Meier, Michael Palmer or someone else is capable of doing that, then I guess the Falcons will stand pat. I don't see that being a realistic option.
I see this as a need even if Lawrence Sidbury undergoes a rapid evolution from benched amoeba to pass rushing T. Rex. The Falcons only have John Abraham under contract one more year, and Kroy Biermann had a few really nice plays but didn't exactly light the world on fire as a starter in 2010. Chauncey Davis and Jamaal Anderson are solid depth and nothing more.
One need only look to the Packers game to see why a good pass rush is crucial. The Falcons got minimal pressure all day and weren't able to close on at least three sack opportunities, highlighting the need for a consistent threat off the edge to complement Abe and Jonathan Babineaux inside.
Again, this isn't something the Falcons necessarily have to do in the first round. Having an effective part-time pass rusher with room to grow would be an excellent complement to the team's existing personnel. I'm all about it.
This one is borne out of necessity. The Falcons cannot possibly re-sign Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo. At best, they'll be able to get two out of three, and at this point I really have no idea which two they'll go hard for.
So that leaves the Falcons needing to find a new starter somewhere along the line. They've got Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds and practice squad hero Jose Valdez in the fold, among others, so the replacement might be on the roster. The Falcons have shown a preference for depth, however, and they may want a sure-fire starting caliber guy out of the draft. I could see them looking line early.
My preference would be to keep Blalock and Clabo, letting Dahl walk. Love the guy, but I felt like the other two had the better 2010 campaign and are more likely to keep that going in the future.
Those are my thoughts. Weigh in.