Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Steven Jackson. That's a quarterback, two wide receivers, a tight end and a running back that any team would love to have.
The Falcons at the beginning of the season had all five of these players healthy and ready to go. These five players were the most important players the Falcons had, and the season would rest on their shoulders.
But because all of these players are pretty expensive and the NFL is a salary cap league, it leaves the rest of the offense and the defense very thin. The Falcons were a very unbalanced football team to begin with, but now with Jones and White hurt, the offense has lost a lot of its firepower.
To make matters worse, Thomas Dimitroff's all in approach is exactly what has undone the Falcons. By trading for Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL draft, and giving up five draft picks to do so, it ushered in a new mentality for the Falcons. Dimitroff stopped investing heavily in what is the most important facet of the game: the trenches.
The Falcons stopped being a physical football team and adopted a more finesse approach once they got Jones. After getting destroyed by the Packers in the playoffs at the end of the 2010-2011 season, they wanted to spread the field and adopt the Green Bay Packers vertical passing approach, which wasn't a bad idea. The Falcons needed to elevate their offense and spread the ball out more. But in doing so, the Falcons slowly started to abandon the run. This made the offense all too reliant on the passing game, making them one-dimensional, and this season, predictable. Without some semblance of a running game, it's hard to keep the passing game going without faltering. We saw this in the postseason last year and we're seeing it every game this year. When you have a horrific offensive line, and a bad fullback you can't mix in a run game. Ask Steven Jackson (11 rushes for six yards on Sunday) or even Michael Turner last season.
The Cardinals had eight tackles for loss on Sunday. Every time Jackson got the ball, he already had one or two defenders in his face. This has been the status quo all season.
The offensive line also gives Ryan very little time to throw the ball, thusly neutralizing the Falcons' greatest strength. This limits any threat of a big aerial assault because there's no time for him to drop back and make those kinds of throws that the Falcons offense relies on to be successful.
Dimitroff hasn't invested at all in the offensive line, and it's killing this team. Even when Julio Jones was healthy, the Falcons still couldn't do anything in the red zone because they had no running game. You can blame part of that on Jacquizz Rodgers or Jason Snelling who filled in for Jackson while he was injured, but the real blame can be placed on the ill equipped offensive line.
The Falcons now rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (62.4), rendering the offense to becoming too much about the pass, as Matt Ryan's 61 pass attempts on Sunday can attest to.
The defensive line hasn't been as bad this season and has suffered some injuries themselves, but Dimitroff hasn't given defensive coordinator Mike Nolan any tools that he can really do much with. The Falcons front four can't generate a pass rush, and while they're getting better at blitzing, a line that consists of Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Jonathan Massaquoi is simply not getting the job done.
This has left the secondary, which was already young and banged up, even more vulnerable than they already were. This defense made Mike Glennon, Carson Palmer and Geno Smith look like Peyton Manning this season.
The Falcons hoped their powerful aerial assault would carry them, but without anything happening at all in the trenches, there is no hope for this team to become a consistent contender.
A big offense can do nothing if the offensive line can't run block or pass protect. A defense without a good defensive line gives the opposing quarterback way too much time in the pocket to tear apart any secondary (even if they're good, even more so if they're below average).
Instead of investing so heavily in skill positions, the Falcons should have maintained that balanced approach they took from 2008-2010 when they had a great core of O-linemen and fullbacks.
Instead of bruisers like Ovie Mughelli at fullback and Harvey Dahl on offensive line, we are now left with scrap heap pieces like Patrick Dimarco at fullback and Lamar Holmes on the offensive line.
What has resulted is a team that has no push in the trenches, which has subsequently led to a 2-5 start. Even without those injuries, the Falcons had a lot of personnel issues on both lines of scrimmage heading into the year.
If there is one person to blame for this debacle, it rests on the shoulders of GM Thomas Dimitroff. While he's done an outstanding job building this team initially, and has acquired some great players, he doesn't know how to build a balanced team. This is evident even heading into the season with the release of Tyson Clabo, John Abraham and the loss of the retired Todd McClure. The replacements for those players (Lamar Holmes, Osi Umenyiora, Peter Konz) have not matched their predecessors' production.
It was all in with a big offense, but the rest of the positions were abandoned and patched up with gum, close pins and tattered rags.
Dimitroff needs to build these positions up in the draft to help the Falcons become a more balanced football team. If not, these issues will continue to plague this football team, and the Falcons will never be able to take that next step.
You need to satisfy your competitive drive, so why not beat our experts in fantasy football. At FightClub, our official Fantasy Football partner, you can change you team weekly and win cash. Get a free $5 credit when you sign up and try them out. And each week, Sports Media 101 will sweeten the pot and award the player with top points an extra $25. Match-up and show them how good you are. Can you handle FightClub?
Your man cave is your home field advantage for every game. When the game is on the line, you should be able to look around and be reminded of the great moments you've watched unfold in that very room! MJR Sports Integrity offers a wide range or team and player-specific memorabilia that can do just that and take your game day room to the next level. Find your inspiration at MJR Sports Integrity and will your team to victory!
- Thomas Dimitroff Has No Plans on Continuing to Pursue DT Richard Seymour
- Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff Tells ESPN’s Colin Cowherd That Mike Smith’s Job is Safe- Even If Team Scuffles in Playoffs
- Predicting the Atlanta Falcons Regular Season: Strengths and Weaknesses Analyzed
- Should the Atlanta Falcons Tank the Rest of the Season? Why It Could Revitalize the Franchise
- Atlanta Falcons Outlast St. Louis Rams 31-24
Short URL: http://sport-ne.ws/135v