Atlanta Falcons: what’s in store for this season
Missing QB could mean disappointing 2007 season
COACH: Bobby Petrino, first season, 41-9 record in four years at Louisville.
LAST YEAR: 7-9 (third in NFC South), did not make playoffs.
OFFENSE: The loss of Michael Vick is devastating. The first QB in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season is sidelined by dogfighting charges and seems unlikely to ever play again for the Falcons. Joey Harrington takes over, a major dropoff. Atlanta brought in 35-year-old Joe Horn to bolster a lackluster receiving corps, but his best days would seem to be behind him. WRs Michael Jenkins and Roddy White must be more produc- tive. The Falcons led the NFL in rushing and have a dynamic duo in Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood. TE Alge Crumpler is a major weapon, though he was plagued by an ailing knee in the preseason. The guys up front must switch from the zone blocking schemes of the previous staff to the power blocking schemes favored by Petrino.
DEFENSE: The first line of defense looks thin. T Rod Coleman is recovering from an offseason jet skiing accident and T Grady Jackson sparred with the team over his medical records. E John Abraham can be a sack machine, assuming he’s healthy. He played only eight games in 2006. All three linebackers— Keith Brooking, Michael Boley and Demorrio Williams — are playmakers, and CB DeAngelo Hall is one
of the league’s best coverage backs. But the rest of the secondary is so-so at best. FS Lawyer Milloy is 33, SS Chris Crocker is coming off a disappointing season, and the Falcons may go with rookie Chris Houston, a second-round pick, at the other corner.
SPECIAL TEAMS: P Michael Koenen is solid, and he doesn’t go into the season burdened by the field-goal duties. He tried to do both last season, but lost the kicking duties after making only 2-of8 attempts. K Billy Cundiff is a major question mark, having made only five field goals the last two years.
HE’S HERE: QB Joey Harrington, WR Joe Horn, FB Ovie Mughelli, OG Justin Blaylock, DE Jamaal Anderson, CB Chris Houston, CB Lewis Sanders, K Billy Cundiff, coach Bobby Petrino.
HE’S OUTTA HERE: DE Patrick Kerney, LB Ed Hartwell, OG Matt Lehr, K Morten Andersen, coach Jim Mora.
IN LIMBO: QB Michael Vick, who faces dogfighting charges.
OPENER: Sept. 9 at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
HOME OPENER: Sept. 23 vs. Carolina, 4:15 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Petrino walked into a hornet’s nest. Vick is back home, dealing with dogfighting charges. His replacement, Harrington, has managed to throw more TDs than interceptions only once in five seasons. The defense has issues, too. The front line lacks depth, and the secondary is soso despite the presence of Pro Bowl CB Hall. The Falcons seem destined for last place in the NFC South.
Barking up the wrong tree: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, right, is escorted by U.S. Marshals, as he arrives at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Va., for his arraignment, Thursday, July 26, 2007. Vick pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal dogfighting charges and was released without bond until a Nov. 26 trial.