I've done podcasts with the Live4Sport gang in past seasons, occasionally contribute Falcons writeups for their site, and I'm the Falcons GM in their annual collaborative mock draft.
One of their top writers recently asked me to do a question and answer session with him about the team's changes this offseason and my thoughts heading into the 2016 season, and I was happy to oblige.
It's always a great experience for me to interview with them because it's not a Falcon-specific site. Their offseason view of the Falcons would otherwise come entirely from those crappy power rankings and those instant draft grades that claimed even our water boys were a huge reach.
As Falcoholics, it's our duty to help the heathens see the light.
You can read the full interview here.
A few other random thoughts before I drift back to Deep 13...
It's not often that I'd say a season opener is a make-or-break type of game, but that might really be the case for the Falcons this year. Tampa should be an improved team, Carolina may not be as strong as last year but are still strong, and with New Orleans you never really know. The NFC South is nearly always completely up for grabs, and the records in those divisional games will be critical.
Tampa and Atlanta both need this one. It will be a major setback for whichever team loses. And it would be even worse for us as it's a home game - if we lose this one, we'd have to turn around and win on their turf to split the season with them.
I was disappointed that both Nick Williams and J.D. McKissic ended up on the practice squad rather than the roster, but I'm happy to see Taylor Gabriel as our latest addition to the WR group. He had a fine year in Shanahan's offense in 2014.
Abilene Christian seems to have a knack for turning out small, speedy WR types. If you haven't heard the story from his pro day workout, the winds were blowing in the 20-25 mph range that day. They had Gabriel do his first run of the 40-yard dash directly into that wind, and he still managed to run it in 4.48 seconds.
Then they turned him around, and he was timed at 4.27 seconds. But frankly, I'm more impressed by that first run.
And overall, I can't help but be pleased with the makeup of the practice squad. It's pretty easy to picture four or five of these players being on the regular roster next season.
It's easy to say the practice squad is no big deal. But when you can take fringe players like the undrafted rookies, practice squad signings or other "off the street" free agents and develop them into useful role players, it gives you a step up on the rest of the league. These are roster spots that you were able to fill without using draft picks or significant cap dollars.
You only have a limited number of draft picks and limited cap space available for free agency each year. If you can fill some of your needs through "Plan D" (the team's name for its developmental efforts), you can use those draft picks to improve other areas of the roster. And that can be huge.
We've seen the benefits before. Once upon a time, Atlanta signed prospect Tyson Clabo to the practice squad, signed prospect Harvey Dahl away from San Francisco's practice squad, and signed Brent Grimes and Eric Weems as undrafted free agents. A few years later, our 2010 team had the best record in the NFC, and that roster included three starters plus a return man that we had gained without using a single draft pick.
So keep the developmental prospects in mind for this season and beyond. It's a good looking group.